Covid-19 impact on grassroots NGO’s in Uganda
In this article, we spoke to Ronny( not real names/ names withheld for privacy and security ) on how Corona Virus has impacted his organization and how they are coping up with the challenges created by the Corona Virus outbreaks and its subsequent preventive measures.
Ronny is the executive director of a grassroots organization (Malebo/ not real name) in the Nebbi District of Uganda whose mission is to protect human rights and promote sustainable development in Uganda. He tells us how Coronavirus has affected him personally as an activist in a way that he is no longer able to go out in the field and execute field works as part of his profession and passion to protect human rights and promote sustainable development.
The interviews transcripts
Could you please tell us how the Corona Virus has affected your activism?
Ronny: The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has greatly and generally affected many people in the activism sector in different ways. On an individual level, Coronavirus has negatively affected me and my activism life in a way that I can no longer be able to go out in the field and execute field works as part of my profession and passion to interact with people as it was before the Coronavirus outbreaks.
It has partly led me redundant from work especially from the period when a lockdown was announced in the country and so my offices also had to close down. However, although I have been able to remain working remotely online with fellow workmates with help of computer and my phone, still it also presents a challenge as it requires a constant internet connection for which am not able to facilitate myself with at the moment which makes it hard for me to be available on time while needed by other colleagues in a given period of time.
As an activist although I do it for passion, I eat and survive from my work of activism and ever since the disease was declared a world pandemic and the announcement of countrywide lockdown, it has really made my life a bit hard regarding my survival since I had to stop working for an unknown period of time meaning I would not also be getting a salary at work due to coronavirus situation which has really affected countries where my organization gets funding from to support our projects and activities which keeps me in worry of perhaps losing my job.
What impacts does this CoVID-19 have on your organization?
Ronny: The Covid-19 has greatly impacted on my organization mostly negatively in ways that it has put most of the organization programs on hold than expected and planned at the beginning of 2020. This is due to the several measures which were communicated and directed by the government as preventive strategies to the spread of Covid-19 disease which could not permit the organization to conduct business as usual, thus we are forced to temporarily close out the offices.
Also, scarcity of resources is one other way in which the COVID-19 has affected my organization. The fact that the outbreak became serious in the beginning of the year 2020 which is also a period when we were busy with resource mobilization for our new projects and programs of the year. This posed a great challenge to our organization because all our funders and prospective future donors are found in countries which are most hit by the Covid-19 which has forced many of these funders out of their offices making it uneasy for us to have their attention and receive funds from them at this time, hence impacting on our works negatively.
Much as my organization work is highly important and needed within the communities of our operations, we can no longer be able to reach those communities with our services due to different reasons created by the lockdown which doesn’t permit any movements with unauthorized vehicles and also bans on social gatherings of more than five people in communities.
Positively, as a community grassroot based organization, the Covid-19 situation presents us an opportunity to be more relevant than we have been before maybe. This is so in that it could prompt us to look beyond our streamlined programs of action within the communities and try rechanneling our efforts towards responding to and helping those in much need especially the vulnerable communities in various ways regarding the impacts of Corona virus outbreak where many vulnerable communities especially in rural areas need help. However, this also comes with a challenge of mobilizing such resources to be used to respond to such community needs in these difficult moments
What are some of the things you or your organization are Doing or have done in order to make sure the COVID-19 doesn’t disorganize you or your organization works and the communities you support?
Ronny: We are trying to keep communication as an important and effective means by working remotely online through emails and other platforms where necessary so as we keep ourselves on the truck and focused although challenged with insufficient resources for internet connection and support.
As a grassroots organization, during this Covid-19 pandemic period, we realized that there is actually severe abuse of human rights within communities perpetuated on the local people by mostly security operatives in the disguise of implementing the government measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Whereas we support any efforts put in place to ensure the disease doesn’t affect people and the communities especially in rural vulnerable areas, but we condemn any acts of human rights violations onto the citizens within this period. In these regards, we are working jointly as a consortium of 5 organizations spread across west Nile, Northern Uganda and Bunyoro sub-region to document the ongoing abuse of human rights happening in rural communities and the information being collected will be used later for advocacy purpose and to bring the perpetrators of these abuse into books.
As an organization, we have also tried to remain relevant in our field of works within the communities in this period by reaching out to other prospected donors to give support in response to the Covid-19 impacts on communities. We are providing foodstuffs and other basic essential needs to the vulnerable households although sabotaged by the government who restricted private entities and individuals from helping the needy with such items in this period claiming that they will be charged with attempted murder.
As we try to channel our efforts to fit in the current situation and keep our works relevant to the communities we support by contacting different prospective donors with Covid-19 response funds mechanisms, we are also doing the best to keep communications with our current donors for possible long-term partnerships and more support of our projects and activities especially during the post-Covid-19 period. This is a time that more work will be required to be done by local-based organizations, especially among the vulnerable communities.
We have been able to and still doing possible to position ourselves to identify and predict what the post-Covid-19 period will come with for communities especially in rural areas. We realize that there will be much need for recovery initiatives and programs from the pandemic period and we realize that people will need to engage more in agriculture as one of the major economic activities that will help to revamp the destabilized market economies. These people are mostly found in rural areas and so they will need more support in the form of agricultural inputs.
What lessons have you learned from the COVID-19 situation
Ronny: The Covid-19 situation has many lessons that both individuals and institutions have to learn from.
At the organizational level, although work is being done according to work plans and schedules throughout the year, this period calls for intense concentration on resource mobilization in order to convince a possible pool of donors with enough funds to support the works and remunerate the staffs with salaries that can enable them to be sustained in such periods like this.
At an individual level, while I know that it is important for one to save a little of whatever he/she gets a salary at the place of work, it is also equally important to have something like a side venture that can fetch one an income at least on a daily basis in order to support them during pandemic and outbreaks when they are unable to receive salaries at their workplaces because of diseases outbreaks.
This Covid-19 situation has also revealed the fact that very many people are actually still living under the poverty line. The situation has shown households who cannot afford meals for their family members for more than seven continuous days if they are not doing their daily work to earn daily wages. This shows poor policy implementation by the government towards poverty eradication as a Sustainable Development Goal which should be achieved by the year 2030 and calls for more investment and interventions from different entities to ensure this comes to reality.