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Supporting the Urban Poor in Africa

  • 19 May 2020

The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) made an unprecedented commitment to work together to accelerate social support for the urban poor in Africa amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Jesuits in Africa believe that reaching out to the poor is important 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 have cautioned African governments that telling the poor to social distance without providing alternatives for them to access food and shelter is a serious lack of concern for the vulnerable and fails to protect them.

Currently, while collaborating with other Jesuit networks across the continent, efforts by the Jesuits in Africa in at least 25 countries will reach some 24, 264 families in urban locations.  They are prioritising 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.

“The inspiration behind the interventions of Jesuits in Africa is the prioritisation 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,” said Fr. Orobator.  However, he noted that 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,” he said.

The Jesuit Superior for Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Fr. Chiedza Chimhanda SJ, lamented the unequal distribution of the continent’s resources, “As Jesuits we wish to urge all African governments to take steps to heal the inequality and poverty around so that every African is able to build resilience against any threat like COVID-19.”

African Governments must protect the poor and vulnerable from Covid-19 effects

The Jesuits serve in 34 of the 46 sub-Saharan countries that are home to the continent’s largest slums and to some of the poorest populations, where most families live hand-to-mouth.  Water access is hard to find, especially with restrictions on movement.

As one resident in Korogocho, Nairobi, Rose Mbone put it: “We don’t have enough food to eat; we don’t have enough water to drink and to cook our food, so where will we get water to wash our hands frequently?”

The Jesuits have called on both the African Union, individual African governments, and the international community to heal the injustice of poverty and its structural causes in containing crises like COVID-19.  They insist that if African countries and the international community are serious about eradicating diseases like COVID-19, then they must provide Ms. Mbone – and the more than 400 million extremely poor people in Africa like her – with continuous access to water, food and decent housing.

Fr. Charlie B. Chilufya, S.J, Director – Justice and Ecology Office

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Photo credit: Fr. Charlie Chilufya, S.J