08 April 2020

On the frontline of Coronavirus for children and families: Rwanda

Keeping vulnerable families together

Carrol (in his mother’s arms) was reunited with his family from an orphanage in Rwanda. Now our team is finding new ways of working to keep children with disabilities, safe at home with their families through the pandemic.,

Around the world, Hope and Homes for Children’s skilled and experienced frontline staff are working harder than ever now to keep all children safe where they belong: in families. Richard Munyaneza is a psychologist with our team in Rwanda, working to support families who have been reunited with children with disabilities, from orphanages. He explains how he and his colleagues are managing to overcome the new obstacles they face.

These past weeks have been very challenging for us as we have had to work remotely due to measures that have been put in place by the Government of Rwanda to cut short the spread of Coronavirus around the country. All citizens have been required to stay at home, no movement outside allowed beside emergency movement such as to go to hospital or to buy food and sanitary materials. Policemen have been placed everywhere to minimise unnecessary movement.

 

“We are still managing to contact families at least twice a week, via phone, to monitor how they are coping with the confinement… to help them keep on looking after their children, mainly children with disabilities.”

 

To just work from home has been very difficult for us, who on a regular basis work in the field, to reach out to families. It is very hard to have accurate information on the situation of the families. Colleagues are being so supportive amongst themselves. We are helping each other, via phone, emails and video meetings and we are trying to cope with the change that has occurred towards our ways of working.

At the beginning of the confinement, we were using local leaders, friends of families and National Council for People with Disabilities Co-ordinators at the local level to reach out to families but since last week it has been so hard for them as the lockdown has been very strict around the country.

 

“Parents are trying to follow the rules to keep children safe… but they are afraid that they could run out of food if the lockdown is extended.”

 

We are still managing to contact families at least twice a week, via phone, to monitor how they are coping with the confinement, to monitor their health and economic status and we try to provide counselling sessions to help them cope with the confinement and to help them keep on looking after their children, mainly children with disabilities.

We are in contact with health professionals from health centres and hospitals to intervene in individual cases where there is a need for strong medical assistance. We keep close contact with our main partners such as local leaders and community organisations who are able to reach the family whenever it is possible.

 

“Inaction is always a driving gear of family separation and helping families, secures the future of a child”

 

Parents are trying to cope with the confinement by following rules and measures provided by the Government to keep them safe but they are afraid that they could run out of food if the lockdown is extended. Mostly our parents have to work and get paid on a daily basis.

One of the parents told me, during a phone call, “I am a tailor and I feed my kids when I have clients who are bringing their clothes to be repaired and it is very difficult in these days to find customers. I have put aside some amount of cash and I am afraid that if the lockdown is extended, I will be short of money and it will be very difficult for me to feed my kids.”

I think Hope and Homes for Children has to be ready if the lock-down is extended, we might see a lot of families like this, requesting to be supported to get some basic need like sanitary materials and food. Not only from the families we already monitor but also from the wider community as well.

 

“It is easier now to prevent a child from being a victim of Covid-19 at home than to prevent a child from being contaminated in an orphanage.”

 

We request locally for support for the families where it’s possible via various programmes that have been put into place by the Government to help vulnerable families. If local leaders cannot provide support, then Hope and Homes for Children can intervene and give the family emergency support to reduce the anxiety.

The simple fact of informing the family of the measures that have been put in place by the Government helps to reduce the spread of the virus and serves to reduce the families’ fear.

It is very important to support vulnerable families. If a family is strengthened it is easier for them to look after children. Inaction is always a driving gear of family separation and helping families, secures the future of a child within a family.

It is easier now to prevent a child from being a victim of Covid-19 at home than to prevent a child from being contaminated in an orphanage. We know that children belong in families, never orphanages.