AFRICA: Jesuits Urge Governments to Protect the Vulnerable from Covid-19 Effects

NAIROBI, MAY 22, 2020 (CISA)- The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM)has called on the African Union, individual African governments, and the international community to heal the injustice of poverty and its structural causes if they are to be successful in containing crises like Covid-19.

In a May 15 press release signed by Fr Charlie B. Chilufya, S.J, Director – Justice and Ecology Office of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, the congregation noted that if Africa and the international community are serious about eradicating diseases like Covid-19, Governments must provide the poor with continuous access to water, food and decent housing.

JCAM has been working alongside governments to accelerate social support for the urban poor in Africa amidst the Covid-19 pandemic by ensuring that they have access to water, housing and food.

They expressed concern that in many countries in Africa, such necessities remain limited and will need significant upgrading to respond to a pandemic like Covid-19.

“Having deployed their own emergency relief plan across the continent, the Jesuits in Africa believe that reaching out to the poor is an important preferential option as the effects of Covid- 19 have been more severe on the poor, affecting families with low income, poor housing, and limited access to basic needs,” they said in the statement.

They cautioned African governments that telling the poor to social distance without providing alternatives for them to access food and shelter shows lack of concern for the vulnerable and poor and failure to protect them.

According to the statement Jesuits together with their collaborators across Africa are reaching out to feed the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless and clothe the poor irrespective of their race, religion or culture.

“Currently, while collaborating with other Jesuit networks across the continent, efforts by the Jesuits in Africa to assist the poor and vulnerable during the pandemic in at least 25 countries will reach some 24, 264 families in urban and peri-urban locations. In their work they are prioritizing the elderly, children, single-headed households, refugees and migrants and people living with chronic medical conditions who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of the disease,” they said.

“The inspiration behind the interventions of Jesuits in Africa is the prioritization of the most urgent and life-saving provision necessary to help governments and other men and women of goodwill to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the poor and vulnerable,”they noted.

However, they noted that while Jesuits care about feeding the hungry, they also are concerned about the structural injustice and disparities that lead to poverty and hunger.

“We do not end at giving bread to the hungry, we care about why the hungry are hungry,”they said.

Using the most recent data, the World Bank has predicted that the coronavirus is pushing 40-60 million people into extreme poverty globally and sub-Sharan Africa will be the hardest hit as 23 million of the populace pushed into poverty are projected to be in the sub-region.