Greetings from Gulu! We have had several people asking about how the pandemic of coronavirus is affecting Uganda, particularly the north. We wanted to give an update about how the ministry is running in the midst of everything going on in the world, and the unique challenges faced here in Uganda as a result.
Several presidential restrictions have come into play in the last two weeks. There is no travel across the border in or out of Uganda except for cargo. Public transport (including the motorcycle taxis used by everyone) has been banned. All schools, churches, and other public gatherings have been banned. No market vendors may sell non-food products to avoid overcrowding at markets. Open markets in the village have been stopped, which means difficulty in getting food for many until their crops grow up. (Right now is when most people are planting). The first case of coronavirus in Uganda was on March 22, 2020, we have since reached 30 confirmed cases (most of which are travelers who returned from abroad).
These restrictions have affected every area of Terebinth Ministries. The Terebinth School of Discipleship had to cancel our upcoming class, and we aren’t sure when we will be able to resume classes. However, that hasn’t stopped work on the curriculum and lesson plans.
The widows program has never been more important than it is right now. Many people have suddenly found themselves without work and food prices have increased. We had our distribution for the month on Saturday, and had the widows come individually to avoid a large gathering. We are so thankful that we can help these women to feed their families, and to bless their communities through their work program.
BAM Enterprises has been hard hit the last month. We recently found out one lot of chickens (about 1000 birds) has an incurable virus call Mareck’s disease. The hatchery should have vaccinated the chicks against this in their first days of life, but clearly didn’t. This means the chickens will not lay eggs. They are about 5 months old, which means they should have started laying next month. This is a big challenge for the farm as we carefully time our lots of chickens to have 4,000 birds laying at a time. We also had to take a loss because there is no refund system here. We fed, medicated, and cared for these birds for 5 months and will not get a good return now as the chickens won’t lay. We procured a new lot of chickens and had our ministry vet personally vaccinate every chick to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
With the sudden restrictions from the president, food prices sky-rocketed overnight. Some of the major food staples in Uganda doubled in price in a night. Although the president promising strict punishment for price gouging has helped, food prices are still much higher than normal. This is also the season that food prices normally increase as supplies get low before the next planting season. As a result of the price increases and several shops closing, BAM has been INCREDIBLY busy. We are so thankful to help serve the community at a fair price, but we were not prepared for the massive influx of sales.
We need approximately $20,000 to procure as much as possible to ensure we will have enough for our ministry needs, plus to provide food items at a low price to the community who will not be able to pay the high prices in the market months down the road. You can click here to give to meet that need.
The clinic has also been greatly affected by the pandemic. Thankfully, Uganda was one of the last affected countries. As a result, we had a few weeks to prepare before it reached us. We were able to buy medicines and supplies in bulk in order to prepare. Production of medicines and supplies relies largely on China because most are produced there. Even if coronavirus had never reached Uganda, the prices for medicines and supplies would still have increased dramatically. We bought extra supplies of our most common medicines (including anti-biotics and anti-malarials), cough/cold medicine to treat corona cases, and protective gear for our staff. We are so glad we were able to prepare for the incoming patients we are likely to see (even if coronavirus doesn’t spread readily, malaria season has just started). We anticipate another high need in the clinic to cover the cost of preparing, and the large numbers of patients we are likely to see who have no work available due to the restrictions put in place. Unlike many first world countries, Uganda has very little health care infrastructure to help if coronavirus becomes widespread. The current estimates are that there is one ventilator for every 1.3 million people in Uganda. Please pray against the virus spreading widely in Uganda. Our clinic is ready to serve however we are able. Our staff is fearful, but are standing in the face of the uncertain to provide any care possible. We have set up an outside treatment area for those with fever and/or cough to prevent overcrowding and spreading illness. Our team’s creativity and problem solving has been amazing as we prepare for a potential spread of coronavirus. To recover the cost of the supplies/medicines while keeping our care affordable we will need about $10,000. If you desire to help meet that cost, click here.
We know that these are hard times for everyone as it is easy to be afraid of what the future holds. We want to encourage all of our friends and supporters that although we don’t know what’s going to happen, we serve the King who does. God is still good and still doing His work. Although the amounts we need to raise seem huge and daunting, even a little helps. This pandemic has affected every person in some way, but if it spreads throughout Uganda the economic fallout may be as deadly as the virus itself. We are here to help in the ways we can, but we need your help as well. If you are able, please consider donating to help those we serve here in Uganda. As always, all donations through Terebinth go directly to serving the mission, not overhead or administration costs. Your giving will go to providing food at an affordable costs, providing for the widows in need, or supplying the clinic to help save lives.
We wanted to include some pictures below to show the beautiful things going on in northern Uganda, despite the challenges. The TSD classroom was refurbished and stocked with desks for the students. The widows were able to come for distribution, and are still being discipled (all 150 of them!). The clinic has come up with creative ways to see patients while limiting overcrowding. In these uncertain times it is tempting to let fear have a say, which leads to selfishness. But here in northern Uganda, we are coming together as a ministry and community to care for one another and serve the Lord.