St Joseph’s mother and child centre serves 340 children in Muketuri in the North Shoa region of Ethiopia. The centre has 17 cows, which provide enough milk for each child to drink 250 ml a day, hens to provide eggs and electricity to pump water. Eshetu Megersa, the manager, is responsible, with his team of three, for the welfare of the cows, milking them and managing the resources they need. The hens died of a sickness early in the year and were not replaced because of Covid 19, but a new batch are now on order. The regularly pumped water supply has enabled vegetables to be grown, the animals to be watered and the mothers and children to learn about hand washing, hygiene, and water conservation.
Covid 19 meant that the school was closed from April to September, and then reopened with the children split into morning and afternoon shifts. Desks and chairs were disinfected between shifts. Teachers and staff put in an extra hour each day to make things work smoothly. All very familiar!
The women and the families of the children were very concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and all were very participative in the new initiatives of the Centre, taking care of themselves and others in the community. The families were very happy that even in the pandemic, there was a continuous presence at the centre helping them.
As elsewhere, Covid-19 was a major challenge. Teachers and staff were kept on full pay but many poor people lost their jobs and started having problems feeding their families, so the centre staff started distributing food – including carrots, onions, beetroot, and pumpkins. While classes were suspended, the milk which the children would have drunk was distributed to the 65 neediest families in the area with any surplus sold off. So, during the tough times, the centre and its staff were able to support the community at large.