As a young African leader, I would like to share the story of a group of young heroes leading during the COVID-19 crisis in Mauritius through SAREPTA Initiative which is a voluntary community action to help vulnerable families. (Loveena S. Sungkur)
SAREPTA: YOUNG HEROES LEADING IN CRISIS TIMES
COVID-19, the CoronaVirus Pandemic has brought around 210 countries on their knees and Mauritius was not spared. The first three cases were detected on 19 March 2020, now with 322 registered cases and the death toll amounts to 10. With a consequent drop on new cases, the medical officials are positively working at contact tracing. 306 patients have recovered during the month of April 2020. This recovery rate so far lights up a spark of hope while careful measures are still maintained.
Authorities took stringent and timely measures right when the first few cases were declared. The initial lockdown has been extended up to mid May 2020 with only essential services running. Discipline is maintained with police patrols, road blocks, verification of work access permits, controlled specific days access to supermarkets in alphabetical order with no children allowed. Strict physical distancing has been sine qua non protocol for public adherence.
Up to half of our annual budget is dedicated to the welfare state with other departments led by the Government. It also includes social benefits allocated to families registered on the Social Register of Mauritius (SRM) with a low household income. During this pandemic, authorities are offering food support only to SRM registered families. Unfortunately, unregistered unemployed ones and many working in the informal sectors are also on the verge of unemployment with no fixed income, resulting in lack of food, sanitation, unpaid rents and utilities bills. Single affected mothers with several children are also facing hardships. Amidst this pandemic, curators of LIFEF and ten dynamic alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Mauritius Chapter with engaged citizens conceptualised Project SAREPTA to respond to this public outcry. This community action supports inclusion of vulnerable non SRM families through humanitarian food support and distribution of sanitation products during this pandemic.
Loveena S. Sungkur, Human Rights Advocate, 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow and volunteer at SAREPTA actively helps with others to coordinate smooth running of the project through advocacy to the media and outreach to families and donors. The motto is to ‘start from where you are, with what you have’ which means anybody can help, whether from their home, through online networks, by conducting phone-calls and screening of needy persons and delivery of food packs. SAREPTA has already distributed food packs to 919 vulnerable persons across the island while 629 individuals are still on our waiting list at the moment.
As a youth-led voluntary citizens initiative, SAREPTA depends solely on the courageous engagement of these young leaders, citizens and support through donations to this laudable cause. Volunteers are tirelessly knocking on donors’ doors to positively respond to the needs. Despite the challenges these few young leaders are risking their lives daily to help feed affected families. This also creates a chain of solidarity where everyone can become a positive outreacher. Loveena is one of these young African leaders who has affirmed her engagement with SAREPTA by improving the livelihoods of thousands of Mauritian beneficiaries.