COVID-19 pandemic in Beni, DRC
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), confirmed by an increasing number of cases. The town Beni in the north eastern part of the country is home to one of the most vulnerable communities in the world, one that is still recovering from Ebola and stepping into an unknown future with the current pandemic. The Happy Baby project has supported the community since 2016 and is one of the few NGOs working in this area. The recent Ebola crisis showed how fragile the local health system is in this district. Therefore we need your help to provide humanitarian assistance and community education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why support mothers and babies?
My name is Noé Kasali and I am a therapist working in Eastern part of DRC. I lead the Happy Baby project, where we help babies and mothers have a healthy bond using our locally produced baby carriers. I know from experiencing Ebola in our small rural community of Beni, that mothers with babies and small children are disproportionately vulnerable during the pandemic. Women who support their households by earning a daily income are now subject to the difficult choice of seeking work to feed their families or staying home to stop the spreading of the virus. With pandemic comes increased poverty and more internal displacements. Families are facing separations, as fathers who have traveled for work, find themselves unable to return home due to travel restrictions, leaving many mothers alone to care for all of the needs of their household.
The World Health Organization’s advice during the COVID-19 outbreak is clear: “Breastfeeding protects newborns from getting sick and also helps protect them throughout their infancy and childhood.” In order to provide the recommended care for their babies during the pandemic, I believe we can support the new and single mothers with their most essential hygiene, food, and baby care needs. With your generous donations, our team in Beni will support the most vulnerable families with these care packages:
Hygiene package: Local families struggle with purchasing soap, yet handwashing with soap remains one of the most powerful ways to stop the spread of COVID-19. We plan to distribute liquid/bar soap to 1,500 households and educate them on the paramount importance of soap in tackling the virus.
Essential food plus hygiene package: Many families need income on a daily basis for buying food. In order to help the families stay home during a time where they can not easily earn a daily income, we plan to create weekly essential food bundles consisting of dry beans and rice.
Happy Baby package: The complete bundle includes soap, a two-week ration of essential food, and a locally produced Happy Baby carrier, to help the mothers keep their babies close to them at all times and improve their breastfeeding practice. The Happy Baby bundles will be provided to the least advantaged mothers, who have given birth during the course of the pandemic.
One of the lessons we learned during the Ebola outbreak is that the more you engage the community the more you will succeed in a public health crisis. Rural communities have more access to their leaders and radio than to social media, television and other sources of news. Therefore, it is important to educate and sensitize local leaders to make announcements on the local radio to give key messages and knowledge related to COVID-19.
About Happy Baby
Happy Baby facilitates a healthy bonding between babies, mothers and other caregivers, with a focus on some of the least privileged and impoverished communities of the world. In addition to providing education on the benefits of baby carrying and breastfeeding, Happy Baby offers women with stitching and entrepreneurial skills an opportunity to make income by producing local ergonomic baby carriers. The gender-neutral and ergonomic design of the baby carrier is key to increasing the involvement of fathers from the early days of child care. Happy Baby continues its commitment to community education and incorporates awareness on baby care and continued breastfeeding during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Happy Baby US is an IRS certified 501(c)(3) offering tax exemption for qualifying US donations. It is an extension of what started as Happy Baby Denmark, established in 2013. Visit www.happybaby.org to learn more about our international programs.
Happy Baby in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo
Happy Baby has been active in Beni since 2016, supporting the caregivers of orphan babies who lost their parents to Ebola. Here are the words of Masika Benedicte, who was one of the beneficiaries of the program.
“I took in the baby of my relatives who died from the Ebola outbreak. However, it started to get hard for me to continue going to my garden. I had to stay home close to the baby. After I was selected to receive a carrier, I was so happy because this carrier then allowed me to carry the baby while doing the garden. Being able to go back to my garden was a direct response to my need to take care of the orphan.”
Hygiene package: $10 - will provide soap for 15 households
Essential food plus hygiene package: $20 - will provide soap and 1 week of food to a family in need
Happy Baby package: $50- will provide soap, a two-week ration of food and a Happy Baby carrier to a family in need