ABUJA, Nigeria—As lockdowns began this week to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, one megachurch near the capital city donated hospital beds, diagnostic sets, sanitizers, oxygen and regular face masks, and other items to health officials.
“We are not just going to pray and trust in God to save us, but we must come out to support the constituted authorities,” said Paul Eneche, senior pastor of the Dunamis International Gospel Centre in Abuja.
Churches and mission groups across Africa are turning their attention to the fight against the new coronavirus. In western Kenya, Houston-based Living Water International, which has formed partnerships with local churches to provide access to clean water while sharing the gospel, has continued its water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program.
Maitabel Okumu, an Africa program specialist with the group, said it has a COVID-19 guide fluent in Swahili to help church leaders encourage their members and educate them on the virus. Translators are working on similar efforts in other communities across the continent. Kenya has at least 81 cases of the coronavirus so far. Health Ministry Director-General Patrick Amoth on Monday said the country could record up to 10,000 cases by the end of April and urged Kenyans to remain vigilant.
In Sierra Leone, where officials recorded the first two cases of COVID-19 this week, Living Water delivered sanitizers and other emergency supplies to church communities. In Ghana, the Presbyterian church in North Kaneshie provided food and hand sanitizers to more than 300 needy people, hoping to encourage them to stay home. The country has counted more than 195 cases. As the number of infections in the country rose to 10 in Mozambique, Grace Missions, which runs an annual conference for church leaders and a Christian bookshop, offered its uncommissioned, 32-bed surgical hospital and two respirators to aid the response in Nampula province.
Hannah Malone, an administrative staff member with the group, said officials from the provincial health department visited the facility this week to inspect it and see if it would work as the city’s treatment base: “We want to be helpful to people around us with our resources.”
As international groups rally to help Africa during the pandemic, they also are condemning some government responses to the threat. Police officials in Kenya have used batons to beat people and fired tear gas at several others who violated the lockdown. On Monday, a 13-year-old boy died after a police officer enforcing a curfew fired his gun in a crowded neighborhood and struck him as he stood on a balcony.
Otsieno Namwaya with Human Rights Watch said authorities should respect the law and abstain from abuse, “otherwise, excess use of force could undermine government’s ability to win popular support and cooperation in an effort to control the spread of the virus.”