England: One of my elderly friends is staying home, but moving her car each day so the tires don’t rot from being in one place too long. She is also clearing out her pantry and discovering food she had long forgotten she had. Not a bad thing, really.
Another friend is working on her gardening, and it shows. She walks to a nearby hospital in the mornings to pray for the patients and staff. She normally travels frequently, so now she is just traveling on Zoom. All three of us hope to meet on Zoom for afternoon tea, though it will likely still be morning my time.
Honduras: My cousin, Dr. Nathan Gilley, and his family recently moved to Honduras. After language study, he will be working at a hospital on the north coast for under-served communities. They took a break from language school at the beginning of March and went to that hospital for the birth of their 4th daughter. Then COVID-19 struck. They are still there and will be for some time. Grandparents were unable to visit to help with the care of the children. Local people are unable to work because of the shutdown, and are running out of money for food. The hospital is practicing to receive cases, but haven’t seen any in their area yet.
Nigeria: I recently spoke to a classmate from SOAS, University of London, who is now the Vice-Chancellor of a university in Nigeria. The universities have been closed for a month and he has been home with his family for the first time in a long time. He says the people in rural areas think of the virus as a disease of the Elite. If the “elite” don’t spread it, all will be well, but if it gets into these rural areas it will be disastrous. Many of these people are non-literate, so depend on information from radio and television.
Sudan: A former student of mine from the University of Khartoum messaged me to find out how I was. The news they hear of New York makes them think we are all dying like flies. I assured her I was fine. She says people there are very afraid. There are 70 cases in Khartoum, and their healthcare lacks a lot.
South Sudan: Two cases were reported on the UN compound and then two more from community spread. No testing has been done on a large scale, so the South Sudanese are staying home. The office and indeed the compound has closed down so no one is allowed in or out. The more extroverts of my acquaintance began to run down after three days of no human contact. Not sure if she will survive weeks and weeks of this!
Kenya: Ben’s mom was here about a month ago, but her visit was cut short in order for her to get back to her other children before the Kenyan borders closed. She flew via Dubai, and on the way from Dubai to Nairobi, one person on board tested positive for COVID-19. She self-isolated for two weeks, but she still can’t leave her apartment because the neighbors know she has traveled, and they are so afraid. If she leaves the house, someone may report her to the police who would then come and put her in quarantine outside her home. After that two weeks, she would be arraigned in court! The youngest daughter won’t even let her hang out the washing on the community clothesline. The city, at least, is under curfew from 7:00 pm – 6:00 am.
Uganda: An American colleague got stuck in Entebbe when the borders suddenly closed and there were no flights in or out. After 2-3 weeks he was able to get back home to his family.
A Ugandan friend in Entebbe confirmed what I had heard was happening there. Everyone is under strict orders to stay home for two weeks. If the police find you outside your house, you can be arrested for murder.
Bear in mind, that many of the poor people in these countries live from day to day by manual labor. They don’t have the resources to live for two weeks without working. The choices may be to die from the virus or die from starvation, or worse yet, to watch their children die. These are difficult times, and in so many ways, I feel we are blessed to have the support systems and healthcare options that we do. Let us thank God for his grace and many mercies to us.