A Snapshot of COVID-19 in Rwanda

Edited April 15, 2020

Has the world ever felt so small?

With the COVID-19 crisis escalating, it is deeply affecting all people around the world, including our artisan partners in Rwanda.

Rwanda has not been immune to threats to public health, the economy, and jobs. In fact, Rwanda is still reeling from months of heavy rain, a loss of crops, and a drastic rise in food prices.

As of April 14, 2020, there were 134 confirmed cases of the virus in Rwanda, with no person critically ill.  Of those, 49 people have recovered and been discharged- we praise God for this! The national stay-at-home order is currently in effect until mid-April. Schools have shut, churches gatherings have ceased, weddings have been canceled, and people are to stay in their homes. Non-essential businesses are closed, travel between districts is prohibited, and motorcycle taxis are not allowed to carry passengers.

The Rwandan government has taken swift and decisive action: More than a week before the virus arrived, mandatory handwashing stations were set up outside all urban institutions and Rwanda’s culture of greeting by shaking hands and hugging was replaced by friendly two-handed waves.  The first case was announced on the morning on March 14th, and by that evening, all churches and schools had been closed. Kigali airport is closed as of Friday, March 20th, and the borders were closed soon afterwards. Returning citizens and residents are subject to a 14-day quarantine. With approximately 40 ICU beds in the entire country and villages with close living quarters and no running water or electricity, it is imperative for the virus to be contained and stopped.

Government financial assistance will not be available to the entire country. It will be up to neighbors to help those who are in need.

Rwanda is a nation which has been through horrendous upheaval before and has come through it with renewed determination to be a leader for positive development. There is much we can learn from the strong leadership and calm acceptance of Rwandans to adopt new practices for the wellbeing of others.  Together, we can be part of the solution.

Although many of the artisans work from home, their work is being affected by outside choices.  Customers for our shops in Rwanda are either sheltering at home or rushing back to their home countries before borders close.  For our cultural Experience days, what had promised to be a bustling spring and summer is now only a string of cancellations.

The majority of artisans are also subsistence farmers, so they do have that to fall back on if the erratic weather stabilizes. However, the reduced income will have an adverse impact, including the artisans’ ability to pay for essentials such as school fees, medical care, and a varied diet, affecting nutrition and health.

The Azizi Life team continues to work with far-sighted global customers who may want to carry the artisans’ goods in the coming seasons; we hope to secure orders which will provide sufficient income to carry the artisans through the worst of the global shutdown caused by COVID-19.

Like you, our team and the artisans are wondering what the future will hold. Our calculated losses are in the tens of thousands of dollars. But we are trusting God.

Even from a vast physical and social distance, you can still support Azizi Life partner artisans in your global community by purchasing fair trade products. Why not get a jump start on Mother’s Day gifts, or…why not Christmas?! Or maybe you want to hygge your home!

We have decided to limit shipping to one or two days a week to reduce the exposure of our warehouse staff. If you are placing a time-sensitive order, please make a note in the checkout process and we will do our best to accommodate.

Because we are all in this together and we love that you are still thinking about fair trade, handmade items for your home and gifts, we invite you to use the promo code TOGETHER10 through June 2020 to save 10% off of your order.

You can also donate to the Azizi Life Rwanda non-profit general fund. This will help to keep Azizi Life operating despite the decline in tourism and will allow us to continue to support artisans through these difficult times.

With all of this on our hearts, we’re inspired by a verse from the Bible: ‘Perfect love casts out all fear’ (1 John 4:18). We lean heavily on God for provision, hope, and comfort as we journey on.

Let’s focus on the good, the hopeful, and the beautiful, and stay connected. In community, we can do so much more than we can do on our own. If you pray, please remember Rwanda, Azizi Life, and our artisan partners in your prayers. If you would like to connect with us daily, join us on Instagram or Facebook.

Photo by Jessica Valoise

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