Six-year-old Jacqueline is experiencing lockdown at home in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wish our school could be opened, but the government closed it, and I feel sad that I cannot go to school,” she says. “I miss my teacher and friends. When we were in school, I used to play different games with my friends. I often think of them. Before the coronavirus, the school gave us different knowledge each day, but now that has stopped. I hope it will start again soon.”
Thanks to International Medical Corps community health workers, Jacqueline was able to continue some of her learning at a safe space for children in Butembo. “Community health workers came to our child-friendly space and taught us that the coronavirus, what we call COVID-19, is a tiny organism that we cannot see with our eyes. They also told us it spreads when sick people cough and sneeze near others,” she explains. “People who are sick have symptoms like cough and fever, and have trouble breathing.”
The community health workers taught the children at the safe space how to protect themselves and others from catching COVID-19. “Some of the things we learned are to wash our hands with soap and water, to wave to people instead of shaking hands and to stay at least one meter away from people,” Jacqueline says.
But Jacqueline—who wants to become a doctor when she grows up—knows that there are challenges in following the community health workers’ advice. “We know we have to wash our hands, but water is very scarce here,” she says. “Therefore, it is very difficult for us to get enough water and soap to wash our hands and protect ourselves from the virus. On behalf of the children in the safe space, I would like to say, please bring us clean water and soap so we can keep clean and protect ourselves from this virus.”
Still, she’s grateful for the lessons she’s learned at the child-friendly space. “I thank the community health workers… at our safe space in Butembo because they also taught us how to protect others and ourselves.”