An update from Ghana

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An interview with our Ghana team leader, Desmond Mpabe

How has the Coronavirus affected Ghana?

The spread of Coronavirus has been slower in Africa than in many parts of the world. We are thankful to God for the low number of deaths and limited penetration in rural areas like ours so far.

However, Ghana now has the fourth highest number of infections in Africa and cases have accelerated recently, so we are not complacent. We know that people have become infected near our base and things can change quickly.

How has CHIPS been helping people respond?

One of the biggest challenges is the high level of misinformation about the virus. Some people are distrustful of what the government tells them, while others struggle to get any information at all. So our team is working hard to share accurate information and encourage hand washing and good hygiene.

We have made audio recordings in the two main local languages to play at our group meetings. This includes information on what the Coronavirus is (and isn’t!) as well as how to stay safe and the importance of obeying quarantine rules (instead of running away which would be the natural response for some people). People tell us this information is very helpful.

We have installed special buckets so people can wash their hands even though they are not connected to a water supply. We have also provided at least 500 locally-made reusable face masks to our groups and volunteers, and 200 sets of gloves for our group caretakers.

What has been the impact on our peacemaking projects?

The pandemic has caused the pace of work to slow. However, by making some changes we have been able to continue running all projects in some capacity, and we pray this continues!

We continue our susu (saving and loans groups) by meeting weekly in smaller groups, washing our hands before and after we meet, and staying socially distanced.

In our animal rearing, crops and beekeeping groups, our team is visiting individual households to check progress and offer support. Even while we cannot meet together, by going out as a mixed-tribe team we continue to lead by example and show how both sides can work and live together.

Our natural medicine, animal health and sanitation and hygiene projects are also still running, albeit at a slower pace, and we continue building new toilets in the villages.

What are the main challenges ahead?

Our biggest concern is how the slowing economy will affect people who were already struggling before Coronavirus arrived.

We are worried that an increase in poverty could lead to tension and outbreaks of violence.

There is also a particular challenge locally as a result of people returning from the cities. This puts more pressure on households as they no longer receive income from family members who used to send it home. Often there simply isn’t enough food to go around.

We are also concerned about what it means for children – child malnourishment is a big issue in Ghana and Coronavirus will only make it worse. So we have decided to take action and have launched an important new project to tackle this issue! You can read more about this, and how you can support it, here.

And what has inspired you recently?

I am encouraged by the way Coronavirus has given us a fresh opportunity to share God’s love and compassion with people – and to help them see that, whatever side we come from, we are the same and we face the same challenges.

I have also been encouraged when local people say about the virus, “Because we know you and trust you, we will listen and do what you say.” When they hear information from others, they often think it is just politics!