The latest news from Sister Mary Owens following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya

Dear Friends of Nyumbani,

Greetings to each one as we, here in Kenya, 28th April, have started the 7th week since the first case of COVID-19 was identified on 13th March. Currently, we have 363 cases, 114 have recovered and 14 people have passed on R.I.P. Last Friday, our President, Uhuru Kenyatta extended for another 21 days the partial lockdown in the original 4 counties: – Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale, and added one other, Mandera. Curfew has also been extended for 21 days. He made an impassioned appeal to all of us to keep observing rigorously the preventive measures needed to contain the coronavirus.

Nairobi County has the highest number of cases but, Thank God, our families in Lea Toto are safe. Our social workers and counselors keep in contact with the caregivers by phone since they can only visit in an emergency. Our clinics remain available for necessary medical care. The children/adolescents in Nyumbani Home 83, and Nyumbani Village, 951 are in good form and safe with access to the online learning and having space to walk around, play games and engage in other activities.

However, we had one sad event in Nyumbani Village when one of our young girls, Esther aged 12 who was being treated for TB, suddenly passed away, RIP. On Monday, 20th April she became seriously ill, was taken to Kitui District Hospital but only lasted a few hours. With the current restriction that burials must be done within 48 hours, our Programme Manager, Mr. Raphael Nganga and relevant staff had the very difficult task of arranging for the removal of the body to Esther’s home place and funeral in Makueni quite far from Kitui, with only 5 persons allowed to travel. Esther and her 10 year old brother, Joseph had only been received in Nyumbani Village on 2nd January, 2020. May Esther rest in peace with God.

Kenya joined with the rest of the world last Wednesday by clapping at noon for our frontline medical personnel, to show our great gratitude and appreciation of their tremendous commitment and courage in testing and caring for persons infected by COVID-19. Thank God more equipment and commodities have now been received here in Kenya from International donors. This will mean that testing of a greater number can be done as well as more expert care for those infected.

During this time of COVID-19, as a PEPFAR Program caring for CLHIV, we are also getting updates and receiving guidance on how to continue serving our children from the office of the Global Coordinator, OGAC and from the USAID Mission Director for Kenya and East Africa. This is happening through frequent virtual meetings and through documentation. Together with updates from CDC and WHO, this keeps us up to date with COVID-19. We continue to keep all our friends and their families in the countries where we have International Boards: USA, UK, Italy, Ireland and Spain in thought and prayer asking God to help their governments to control and bring to an end the spread of COVID-19.

As I told you in my last letter, we will soon able to transfer our accounting and human resource management to an Enterprise Resource Planning system. For the past two weeks, consultants have been doing a survey of current related management, and initiating the training of relevant staff.

Another survey is also taking place here in the Head Office by a team from a recently- inaugurated PEPFAR program, Accelerating support for Advanced Local Partners, ASAP. The purpose of the survey is to identify areas for capacity building in governance and management. As I made reference in an earlier Newsletter, COGRI has been identified for this support since, with effect from October, 2019, we have been reaching out to serve the siblings in our Lea Toto families as well as to other families where the parent is living with HIV and may have a child living with HIV, CLHIV as well. Currently, in Lea Toto, we are caring for 3,132 CLHIV and 11,088 affected children.

We are very grateful to our local people who continue to support us with food and to new donors who have felt called to reach out to us at this time of need. The generosity of our donors lifts our hearts. Then, yesterday 27th April, I had a phone call from State House to tell me that a delegation was coming to Nyumbani Home to-day, 28th April to present a donation of food supplies. What a tremendous surprise we all got when the truck was offloaded and we saw the extent of the donation: Bales of Uji and Maize flour, bags of Beans, Sugar, Salt, cartons of Cooking oil, boxes of long life Milk, 500 masks. See photo. Words are inadequate to express our heartfelt gratitude to Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady who through the program where she is Patroness, Beyond Zero, made this donation possible. Our children from a distance showed their gratitude by clapping. We truly value that Her Excellency continues to remember Nyumbani. All our children in the Nyumbani programs will be able to benefit from this huge donation.

United with each one in spirit and prayer as we beg God to rid our world of COVID-19, and God bless each one.

Sister Mary Owens IBVM Executive Director

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