October 29, 2020
News Opinion

PAUL HOPKINS: Life in the time of coronavirus: Africa Rising needs your help

Few corners of the world have escaped the devastation of Covid-19. One of the biggest mistruths about the rogue microbe is that it treats all its victims equally, discriminating nowhere.

While people of all backgrounds and dispositions are hit by Covid-19, it is those souls in the lower socio-economic brackets who, with the elderly, are among the majority falling foul of this wretched virus. This is true of the statistics evident in the UK and the US. Likewise, on the continent of Africa.

The coronavirus does not treat us all the same, neither medically, nor economically, socially nor psychologically. If anything, it exacerbates pre-existing conditions of inequality wherever it arrives.

Social —  sorry, physical — isolation does not enter the equation when it comes to the 250,000 living in squalor in the slum that is Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya which I spent time in not long ago.

As if the pandemic was not enough, another major crisis is looming in East Africa, where massive swarms of locusts are devouring entire fields of crops in minutes —  putting millions at risk of alarming food shortages, in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, the worst crisis in 25 years.

Locust swarms will grow up to 500 times their size by the end of  June if sufficient measures to tackle them are not taken.

Many communities were just beginning to recover from recent intense climatic shocks of droughts and floods, and now their livelihoods are under threat again, along with the curse of Covid-19.

Globally  —  where one in nine people will go to bed tonight hungry  —  an overhaul of the world’s food and health systems is needed to tackle malnutrition, a “threat multiplier” that is now the leading cause of ill health and deaths globally, according to new analysis.

The Global Nutrition Report 2020 finds that most people across the world cannot access or afford healthy food, due to agricultural systems that favour calories over nutrition as well as the ubiquity and low cost of highly processed foods. Inequalities exist across and within countries, it says.

One in nine people hungry, or 820 million people worldwide, the report finds.

The stated vision of Glenisk, the 30-year-old Irish food producer, is for an organic society, where the future health and wellbeing of all children is assured. Glenisk has just launched the next phase of its charity and sustainability focused initiative, One Million Trees,  for Self-Help Africa, along with your local SuperValu. The result of the initiative, which runs until June 10th, will see more than one million trees planted in 2020, in both Ireland and sub-Saharan Africa. You can play your part in supporting the fight against climate change while also supporting local Irish businesses by simply choosing a pot of Glenisk yoghurt when you next visit your local branch. One pot equals €1 going to the initiative.

One Million Trees will see 100,000 native trees planted in Ireland and 1,000,000 trees planted in sub-Saharan Africa.

How will planting trees help, you may well ask. The trees help those living in harsh climates by providing shade, shelter, food, fertiliser and income. By participating in this venture, you are helping to reduce carbon and combat poverty. Just one mango tree can change a life, so imagine what one million trees could do.

The single greatest attribute I have seen in African people in my years of travelling throughout its sub-Saharan countries is their determined entrepreneurship. From shanty town to crossroads, from factory floor to boardroom, they have pulled themselves up by the shoestrings and just got on with it. The young African today is an educated one and it is that and the (new) work ethic that is bringing about ‘The Africa Rising’. That is until Covid-19 and locusts and climate change and global inequality reared their ugly heads again.

Nowhere was this ‘self-help’ more evident than while visiting a small, co-operative spice and fruit farm in BuBubu on the island of Zanzibar a while back. As I mounted the bus to return me to Stone Town, the most beautiful African child appeared before me begging the accidental tourist for money, anything.

As she stood in the warm but torrential short cloudburst, I asked her bigger brother could I take her photograph. He goaded her into obliging. And then she lingered, staring at me, the rain like dew on her sun-drenched skin.

I only remembered my manners just as the bus door began to close. I put a five dollar bill out to her. She hesitated, then took what she had earned, and, as we pulled off to shouts of glee, her face lit up with the most unimaginable joy. Five dollars won’t buy you or I much but for this young girl in a blue kanga, pregnant with hope, it was a wage honestly earned.

All I’m asking of you now is to spend a euro or so on a Glenisk  produce to help those less fortunate than us.

Please also see, https://www.instagram.com/p/B-PtvfLAwCY/

 

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