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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Swazi's aren't worried about toilet paper

Nine children whose names can encourage you today.
We are living in strange times, and the whole world knows it, even Swazi’s in the most remote parts of our tiny country.  And they are afraid.

They are not afraid of not having enough toilet paper, because most Swazi’s are too poor to EVER buy toilet paper, so it won’t be missed (they use leaves or crumpled up newspaper).  Most Swazi’s are too poor to have a pantry, so there is no stocking up of food, and no money to stock up with 70% of the population being subsistence farmers.

This is a people group who are currently living with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world and an estimated 70% of the population living with active or inactive Tuberculosis, but that is not what scares them.   What makes them afraid is the government hospitals because here have been out of critical medications for the past couple of years, so how will they possibly be able to help really sick people?  There are no masks, there is no protective gear and there are reports that some nurses just don’t want to go near sick patients. There are only four functioning respirators in the entire government healthcare system in the country. Yesterday I had a nurse say to me, “In the west, people who are thought to be sick with the coronavirus are considered ‘people of interest’.  It is the opposite here in Eswatini – no one is interested in them.”  Ouch.

Ian and I drove to South Africa on Tuesday and spent a day going from one pharmacy to the next to get the medications that our children will need for the next eight weeks.  The borders were starting to close that day so we had to work quickly and only got 75% of what we needed.  We also haven’t been able to get critical medications for many months from Swazi suppliers so someone always has to drive to South Africa (Pretoria is a 5-hour drive) to get meds each month. We pray that the borders will reopen before our medications run out.

It has been widely reported that we have only had one case of COVID-19, a woman who arrived from Germany, but we aren’t sure whether testing is being done and/or reported accurately. That is what Swazi’s are telling me they are afraid of – no tests, dishonest reports, and no possible medical care if they do get sick, which they will.

We are all trying to practice social distancing, but Swazi’s (like most Africans) depend on public transport that are small vans crammed with as many passengers as they can fit.  If the thought of contracting Tuberculosis wasn’t terrifying enough, COVID-19 increases the risk and fear, but still it is the only way for them to get from A to B.

Then there is the practice of “sharing a meal”, which is common to most of the African continent of one billion people.  Families share the same meal from the same bowl.  We see it from the front office to Khutsala where two or three people will take turns cooking that week and bring a plastic bowl of food that everyone eats from. 

I know that the world is afraid, and I can’t imagine the fear that people are feeling as they wake up each day to new startling numbers and data, but please don’t forget to pray for Africa.  Most countries won’t have access to the testing kits that they need (if the US can’t get them, how will we?), so we really won’t ever have accurate data, and most of those billion people don’t have access to health care services at all. 

We will not live in fear, and we have put all protocols possible in to effect here at Project Canaan, and we wait. 

Spencer is in lock down in Illinois now and Chloe is self-quarantined in her University apartment in Canada. For the past four days we have been working tirelessly to get Phiwa and Nokwanda home from Boston after the Doctor discharged them on Monday.  But alas, after two failed attempts at the airport where they were turned away at the gate two nights in a row.  Now, they will not be able to get home. South Africa has closed its borders so we are now locked in the country for the unforeseeable future and they are locked out.  Thankfully, the Habelow family came to their rescue again and got them flights to Florida where they will live with them until the borders open, international flights resume and they can come home.

After herculean attempts to get the girls home, we could not.
While these are complicated times of uncertainty, what we do know for certain is that God is God and he is securely on the throne.  I took the photo below yesterday of nine of our children who have names that will surely remind you to keep your eyes on Him, and do not be afraid. He is with us, to the end of time.

Live from Eswatini … enjoying the fresh air and daily walks around the farm.


PS – and in the midst of all this, Willis fell off the top bunk, hit his head and broke his clavicle this week requiring several days in a private hospital.  And theft continues, this time it was the Dairy Manager, who we liked and trusted, stealing dairy meal. He and his partner in crime were given a E7,000 fine ($400 US) or FIVE years in prison. They don’t have access to that kind of money so will spend the next five years in a Swazi jail.  This job doesn’t get any easier.

Posters we have put up on the farm to deter theft.

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