AFRICA/KENYA - Covid-19: psychological support offered by the eight Episcopal Conferences of East Africa

Saturday, 24 October 2020 coronavirus   episcopal conferences   solidarity  


Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - "Spiritual support is a necessity amidst the pandemic", says Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo, Pastoral Coordinator of AMECEA (Association of Members of Episcopal Conferences in East Africa), speaking of the program launched in August aimed at providing spiritual and psychosocial services to people who have been affected in various ways by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Most people never connected Covid-19 with psychological torture which can lead to worry, but through this program it has strongly come out that the pandemic brought anxiety".
The overall objective of the program is to provide a common platform for the Episcopal Conferences of the AMECEA region (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia) to share experiences, provide toolkits and materials for psychosocial and pastoral assistance services to communities and people affected and infected by Covid-19.
The guidelines issued by various States within the region to help contain the spread of Coronavirus including curfews, working from home, lockdown and keeping social distance among others have affected the social and spiritual lives of so many people in the society.
"We are social beings and isolation is not normal for us", recalls Fr. Chimombo. "The stringent measures issued by governments made people feel somehow ostracized. Therefore, the spiritual and psycho-social program is giving opportunity to people who are isolated and traumatized to find accompaniment and solace".
By offering individual consultations, each Episcopal Conference has a qualified consultant who makes his service available free of charge over the telephone. Each Episcopal Conference has designated a radio station with broad coverage where the consultant answers listeners' questions for about an hour a day.
Father Chimombo underlines that the program in question has made it possible to understand that many people lived in ignorance or lack of knowledge of Covid-19.
Some had misconception about the pandemic while others simply did not know how to handle the situation.
The use of radio platform which was aimed at reaching the people in rural areas, says Fr. Chimombo, " was an eye opener and it gave opportunity to people to ask questions and get professional responses". Most of the people who contacted the service expressed economic and family concerns.
The program has not, for the time being, been able to reach all the populations of the region because "the few radios selected limit the scope of reach while some conferences like Ethiopia do not even have a national Catholic radio station, and this hinders effective implementation of the project as designed", says Fr. Chimombo who concludes: " There is need for creation of a counselling desk in conferences which is not necessarily for Covid-19 but to help the many people who are suffering silently and need psycho-social support". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 24/10/2020)