A Double Whammy: COVID-19 and Record Floods

As of today, May 14th, 2020 at 8 pm EST, 160 Ugandans have tested positive for the coronavirus, of which none has died and 63 have recovered. 

Although the virus infects a mere fraction of Uganda’s 43M citizens, the pandemic’s impact on the economy and government resonates nationally. Measures to slow the spread often clash against the normalcy of daily life and the vitality of essential trade. As information about the virus emerges daily, Ugandan policymakers must propose national recommendations that adaptively balance the physical and economic well-being of their people. 

Second-hand clothing markets annually reap $200M for the Ugandan economy.

Illustrating this volatility, bans that were placed on the second-hand clothing market were reversed on May 8th – just 24 hours after their institution. Although they may remain open, clothing sellers must abide by heightened hygiene mandates such as fumigation before they can make any sales. While the government did not release any comments concerning this policy reversal, its desire to maintain the $200M industry and to prevent backlash from the U.S. – the main source of imported clothing – may have motivated the decision.

Ugandan truck drivers have been mandated to carry digital tracking devices.

On May 12th, Ugandan officials ordered all truck drivers to carry digital tracking devices. This strategy came in response to a disproportionate rate of infection that was reported among these workers last month. Although preventing the spread of the disease remains paramount, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni emphasizes, “We need the cargo. We need the goods.” … And they certainly do. Stifling the dispersion of COVID-19 has necessitated significant economic sacrifices. Already, the International Monetary Fund, a multinational organization working towards global financial security, has loaned $491M in relief to Uganda’s COVID-19-related economic downturn. 

President Museveni’s final campaign rally from 2015.

Beyond the economic strain, the country expects a postponement of polling for its 2020 general elections. Should the pandemic remain out of control through July, President Museveni predicts a delay of the elections until early 2021. 

The Nalubaale Hydroelectric Power Station, where the blackout-causing blockage occurred.

It gets worse. As if COVID-19 did not pose great enough hardships, the Ugandan people now face extreme flooding – the likes of which they have not seen since 1976. This month alone, the floods have killed 4 people, trapped 200 patients inside of a hospital, and displaced 5,000 others for the sake of emergency relocation. Recently, the record 44-ft rise in Lake Victoria dislodged an island of vegetation – measuring 2 acres –from a riverbank. Ultimately, this floating island clogged one of Uganda’s four main hydroelectric power stations, which precipitated a brief, yet nationwide power outage. 


Post Author: Chanel Varney

Uganda Prepares for COVID-19

In just 3 months, COVID-19 has spread to 74 countries.
Almost instantaneously, its scare has gone global. 

As of today, cases of the coronavirus have emerged in 7 African countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco, and most recently, South Africa. Uganda remains unaffected, but its Ministry of Health has taken measures to thwart the virus’s first breach. 

At all major points of entry, including Entebbe International Airport, the government has instituted a surveillance program, which isolates potentially-infected persons while they undergo testing. So far 722 travelers to Uganda have been isolated out of precaution, including some 499 Chinese citizens and 150 Ugandan citizens.

According to the Minister of State for Primary Healthcare, Dr. Joyce Mariku Kaducu, 10 suspected samples of COVID-19 have undergone laboratory testing. All returned negative. Moving forward, the Ministry of Health is actively equipping hospitals with testing apparatus, establishing mobile testing units, and preparing ambulatory transportation for suspected cases. 

While the country has not banned all international entrants, 93 Ugandan students, who were in Wuhan at the time of the outbreak, are prohibited from coming home. Consequently, the government has issued financial assistance to these students while they remain abroad. 

 The Minister of State for Primary Healthcare, Dr. Joyce Mariku Kaducu, addresses Uganda’s current position with COVID-19 on NTV last Monday, March 2nd. 

Beyond the issue of personal travel, the COVID-19 outbreak could have massive implications for Ugandan trade. Many Ugandans travel to China to pick up plastic, mechanical, and electronic goods for resale, but are now limited in their ability to do so. Furthermore, the scare has prompted many ships – which routinely transport cargo from China to ports in Mombassa, Kenya – to cut back on delivery. So far, the preventative measure has not inflicted a major blow to the Ugandan economy, but its consequences will become more apparent when businesses run low on inventory. Recognizing this possibility for low supply, Ugandan banks are preparing for widespread deflation of national currency. 

Finally, the Ministry of Health seeks to educate the public on the best preventative measures. They recommend that all should wash their hands thoroughly and often, carry personal alcohol-containing hand sanitizers, and abstain from sharing drinks and utensils with others. If experiencing flu-like symptoms, one is advised to self-isolate and refrain from self-medicating. Antibiotics will not help against a virus; people must seek proper medical attention instead. To discourage large gatherings, which are more vulnerable to disease spread, Dr. Joyce Mariku Kaducu warns,

“Every gathering must get clearance from the ministry. If you are organizing a mass gathering without asking the Ministry of Health, we have powers to stop you.” 

Invisible and insidious, the COVID-19 virus continues to elude containment efforts across the globe. While many countries have failed to block the coronavirus from crossing their borders, Ugandan public health authorities are doing everything they can to intercept COVID-19 importation and minimize spread in the event of its arrival. 

Information and images presented above were compiled from these sources:





Post Author: Chanel Varney

Meet Brenda: the new “Miracle Overseer”

It’s simple. If the birth of a new human being is a miracle, and a midwife oversees the birth, then midwives should not merely be called “midwives,” but rather “Miracle Overseers.” Considering the diligent and self-sacrificial care of Brenda Musubika, ROWAN’s newest midwife, even this enhanced title of “Miracle Overseer” may not do justice!

Brenda, who is now 25-years old, graduated with her certificate in “Miracle Overseeing” (a.k.a. Midwifery) from the International Institute of Health Sciences in 2017.  After graduating, she worked at the New Hope Hospital in Iganga, Uganda for a year before moving to the Joy Medical Center in Kampala, Uganda, where she served for the past two years before joining ROWAN.

Now, Brenda has come to Mawanga, alongside her husband and little girl, to look after all the new and expecting mothers in our community. This is no small task. Last year alone, over 100 babies were born under the Hope Clinic’s care! Central to her role, Brenda visits women at their homes to ensure that they can supply their babies with adequate breastmilk. When new mothers struggle to produce milk or cannot do so at all, ROWAN provides formula to prevent malnourishment. 

Today, formula is a pressing need in the ROWAN community. In fact, it was just last summer that the ROWAN staff discovered Bruno, an emaciated 9-month old boy, who was living with his uncle and grandparents after his mother suddenly passed away. The family had no means of supplying breastmilk and they could not afford the price of formula. ROWAN tried to intervene in Bruno’s sickness, but the provision of formula came too late. Bruno died 2 months later as a result of the irreversible damage caused by his malnourishment …  

We lost a child whose inmost being was created by God – whom God knit together in his mother’s womb. We lost a person that was fearfully and wonderfully made.

Malnourishment should no longer be the cause of this.
Will you help us make that possible?

As Brenda outreaches to the community, you can help us enable her with formula, which is rich in the irreplaceable nutrients needed by the newest members of our ROWAN family. If $50/month is all it takes to supply a newborn with formula, Bruno would have grown into a strong and healthy little boy with $600 in care for his first 12 months.

Our vision is to see that the joy of bringing a new child into the world outweighs its dangers and the sorrows of its loss. With Brenda joining our team, we are hopeful for a future in which the promises of the Lord may be realized time and time again: 

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” -Psalm 127: 3

“He gives to the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” -Psalm 113:9


Post Author: Chanel Varney

Ivan’s Wedding!

“I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it.” – The Pointer Sisters (2008)

Fewer lyrics could better describe Ivan Kirunze, ROWAN’s faithful literacy teacher, and his radiant bride on their Big Day. In Ugandan culture, men do not typically smile during their weddings, but clearly, nothing could wipe the smile from this man’s face!

 Minutes before the wedding ceremony begins, Ivan beams with joyful anticipation.

Despite their culturally-rebellious grins, the couple followed the extravagant pre-wedding tradition known as “Introductions.” At this ceremony, hundreds from the community gather to witness the man arrive at the woman’s home and formally ask for the parent’s blessing. In seeking their favor, he will bring a generous dowry of goats, cows, and/or fresh produce. But he can only ask for her hand if he can find her …

Amidst the humming fervor of the crowd, the man and the emcee of the event desperately search for the woman as one might search for the cartoon in Where’s Waldo? Upon her discovery and the family’s acceptance of the proposal, the rest of the night is filled with jubilee.

 Ivan unites with his stunning bride at the “Introductions” ceremony.

Isn’t it a beautiful thing to see a groom with unabashed love for his bride? Isn’t it incredible that Christ loves us, the Church, with the same passion? The Word of God tells us that …

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy … and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless … For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:25-32

Congratulations to the newlyweds! May God bless you with ever-deepening joy for each other and for Him!



Post Author: Chanel Varney

Holiday Program Underway!

Home from school for the holiday recess, our children convene at the Hall of Hope for the Holiday Program, where they build community across all class years. Older students, such as Jonathan Wagaba, a current medical student, and Ronald Dyole, an aspiring teacher, take the opportunity to mentor secondary school students on career choices. They encourage their younger peers to contemplate their school experiences and pursue vocations that align with their interests and individual giftings. The Holiday Program provides an incredible opportunity for older students to serve as leaders in the community while younger students gain insights and inspiration from their older mentors.  

Ronald Dyole (wearing an orange T-shirt) shares his thoughts on career aspirations with secondary school students.
Beyond the opportunity for sharing and learning, the Holiday Program, which runs 5 days a week, entertains students with a range of activities. Students receive health check-ups, eat nutritious meals, and play games for hours on end. Favorite sports include soccer, jump rope, and netball, a thrilling combo of basketball and volleyball


Post Author: Chanel Varney

Who’s the new girl?

Soon, new posts will be rolling your way, written by a name that you may not recognize. That’s me! Chanel Varney – and I’d love to give a proper introduction to you, my cherished ROWAN friends. 

I originally hail from Southern California, but for the past three and a half years, I’ve been in Cambridge, Massachusetts studying biology at Harvard. Studying here has been a tremendous blessing, straight from the hand of God. One of the greatest joys of my experience has been my Christian community. Harvard College Faith & Action is a multi-denominational Christian club on campus, started by the Christian Union. With this group, God has brought me closer and closer to His heart, and without this group, I would’ve never known about ROWAN.

After returning from a mission trip to South Africa in December 2018, I knew that God was compelling me to seek out another opportunity to go abroad and meet more of my family in Him. I recall looking at dozens of missions opportunities online, but when I saw the ROWAN trip (posted on the Christian Union website), I immediately felt that I would be going. 

In May 2019, I went from not being able to point Uganda out on a map, to personally cherishing a Ugandan community that maps hardly know: the rural, grassy Mawanga. Before my trip, I knew what ROWAN stood for – “Rural Orphans and Widows AIDS Network” – but afterward, I fully grasped who ROWAN stands for.

ROWAN serves a community that loves the same God and that is loved by the same God as me. A community that rejoiced to see me, lavishing me in embraces and enthusiastic welcome. They welcomed me into their homes with more hospitality than I ever found in my own heart. They blessed me with generous gifts, earned by incredibly hard labor because they wanted to communicate their love for me: a stranger, I felt, but to them, a true sister. 

Have you ever been humbled by another’s generosity? Perhaps Jesus’s? … whose unmerited kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). If so, then you will know how I felt during my trip. I was given WAY more than I could ever return – I’m not talking materially, but about something much more precious and everlasting: Jesus’s love. I will graduate with a degree from one of the most prestigious and challenging universities in the world, but something much more applaudable and difficult to accomplish is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The people of ROWAN do this inexplicably well, and through these people, God reminds me that greatness in this kingdom – becoming educated, rich, powerful – has no value in His Kingdom. Instead … 

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

“Whoever wants to be first must take the last place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35).

I need to be reminded of these truths weekly. Daily. Hourly. Many of us do. I feel blessed that God works through this community to be that reminder in my life. I’m excited and honored to write stories about ROWAN so that others may be equally as blessed. 

As someone who loves to write, I often journal, and on occasion, the Holy Spirit will write through me. If you’d like to read what He revealed to me as I reflected on my trip to Mawanga, here’s the link.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are blessed by the stories to come! 


Chanel Varney 




Post Author: Chanel Varney

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