April 18, 2020
By Janice Biehn
In late January, before COVID-19 had been named and there were just initial reports of an outbreak in Wuhan, China, people in the Diocese of Masasi in Tanzania were dealing with a different disaster. Heavy rains in the south in Lindi region resulted in flash floods that destroyed homes, telecommunication and electricity lines, bridges and roads, and killed 24 people.
In response to this desperate situation, PWRDF has organized the Kilwa Emergency Humanitarian Relief Assistance program to run from April 1 to June 30, 2020. The $250,000 program will come from our equity in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, as well as a match from the Foodgrains Bank. The focus will be on food and seed distribution.
Approximately 25,000 people have been displaced in Lindi, Kilwa, Ruangwa and Liwale districts. Two thirds of those people are living in temporary settlements and the rest are staying with relatives. Assessments from the Diocese of Masasi showed to Kilwa as being the most vulnerable area.
Naba Gurung, PWRDF’s Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, has been in constant communication with Rev. Geoffrey Monjesa of the Diocese of Masasi and his team as this response takes shape. “Almost every morning we are speaking via Skype to discuss next steps. Rev. Geoffrey is extremely grateful for our continued support and long-term partnership.”
The Diocese of Masasi is a 20-year partner of PWRDF, most recently with the All Mothers and Children Count program that ran from 2016-2020.
Where the last four years of AMCC have dramatically improved food security for people of Masasi, the flood disaster has pushed the farmers’ prosperity back several years. The flooding destroyed 4,305 acres of farm land as well as major staple crops such as maize, rice, cassava and sorghum and cash crops including cashew finger millet and coconut tress. Small and large livestock were also lost. People are now having difficulty accessing safe drinking water as the existing water supply systems were also destroyed. Many households had no hope for their livelihood.
Our contacts and relationship with the leadership of the Diocese remain strong, so we were able to fund a response that will provide food and seeds (maize, cowpeas and pumpkin) to people in the most affected villages. The program will provide maize flour, beans, cooking oil and salt to 1,000 households, with 700 getting food in exchange for doing work in the community, and 300 of the most vulnerable households simply receiving the rations.
The program was already underway before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. With this in mind, some funds have been allocated to duty of care for the staff and enumerators and project participants. Funds will provide soap and thermometers for each distribution site to enable handwashing and temperature checks.
According to Tanzania Meteorological Authority Report of February 2020, the rains may continue up to May. With seeds and other agricultural inputs, there is a hope that food security situation will improve.