With the first case confirmed on 22 March 2020, the country went into lockdown on 01 April restricting movement, closing schools and essentially shutting down tourism.
These restrictions present the island families with a serious challenge: most people are dependent on tourism, either directly through formal work, or indirectly through trading. There is no electricity or direct water source, so residents need to travel to the mainland to access most services.
Chronic food insecurities are part of the islanders’ everyday reality – today’s meal depends on today’s earnings, so when there is no income, day after day, the situation quickly escalates to life-threatening status. This current crisis is the unintended consequence of the lockdown precautions.
A collaborative effort
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds on the island, Africa Foundation has been in a strong position to identify the most critical community needs, and in partnership with key stakeholders like Africa Parks (who manage the Bazaruto Archipelago), to implement maximum-impact responses.
Close collaboration with the staff of &Beyond Benguerra Island has been critical to their well- established community relationships and has also been instrumental to the logistical implementation of this, and other, supportive initiatives. The most vulnerable households have been identified and prioritized for Phase one of this food relief project.
Phase one takes off
The first delivery of USD 10,000 worth of food relief arrived in Vilanculos on 09 May. These provisions were immediately transported by dhow to Benguerra Island. The team, including Johan van der Merwe (&Beyond Benguerra Island General Manager), Zané Davel (Lodge Manager) and Africa Foundation’s Isaac Nhamirre, started the distribution to the first villages the very next day. This critical intervention will include households on the neighbouring island of Magaruque.
For the team involved in this distribution, it’s been a deeply moving experience. As Johan explains, “This is why we joined &Beyond – in the middle of this crisis, we’re practicing what we preach and living our ethos of care.”