As the world continues to unravel under the impact of COVID-19, the children supported by PCAU under our Road to Hope Program are affected by the closure of schools and shrinking resources due to vulnerability. The children on PCAU’s Road to Hope Program are child care givers of palliative care patients from the most vulnerable families. For many such vulnerable children, schools not only provide education, they also provide protection from violence and abuse, a safe place and routine activities. Schools are often also the main source of safe water, nutrition and mental health support.
To PCAU, it was critical that children’s access to learning, health, nutrition and protection services is not affected. To address their most urgent needs during the challenging times that limited physical monitoring, PCAU substituted this with phone call follow ups by the program officer as well as the palliative care coordinators in the districts and the following interventions were taken:
Education and school closure: PCAU, with the support of a great team of volunteers and palliative care providers from different areas of the country, has worked hard to ensure that children are supported to continue learning from home. The Ministry of Education and Sports decided to have children continue learning from home through television and radio tutoring sessions as well as publishing homeschooling packages for each class in the newspapers. Many families could not get access to televisions due to lack of electricity and buying newspapers was neither a priority for their guardians/parents nor affordable for them. PCAU worked with volunteers who distributed newspapers in remote areas using motor bikes. This service is set to continue until schools are officially reopened.
Food support and basic needs:. COVID-19 brought the economy to a standstill, resulting in very negative effects on the daily income of families. This led to increased poverty, and eventually affected the families’ capacity to meet their needs, thereby putting children at risk of malnutrition. PCAU was able to intervene and provide food support to struggling families of the children on the program. Vulnerable families received posho, beans, salt, sugar, soap which was able to take them for at least two weeks. This was a great relief to the families who were happy and appreciative as expressed through phone calls and messages.
Health-related issues of the children: All children with known health conditions on the program have not been left out. PCAU has supported them in this period to ensure that they receive medical attention. One of the beneficiaries who needed plastic surgery was picked up by the PCAU car from home to the hospital as normal transport was limited.
Some of the opportunities presented by this situation is that children have, for the moment reunited with their families, especially during the lockdown. The program looks at this as an opportunity to strengthen families to bond with their children even after the pandemic. We must all work together to protect children and mitigate each of the risks they face to ensure access to quality education, nutrition, and health care, as well as prevent and fight all forms of violence including domestic violence, abuse, and sexual exploitation of children. Much appreciation goes to our sponsors, volunteers, and Palliative Care coordinators for the continued support offered to the children. To our children on the program, we love and care about you!