The global pandemic of Covid19 has, of course, an impact on the Foundation's activities. In Europe or in Ethiopia, we owe you transparency on how we are currently operating and what steps we have taken and will take. Overall and for the time being, the progress of the construction of the Sona school is little affected.
Good news first!
The Ethiopian government agency in charge of NGOs (ChSA - Charity and Societies Agency) renewed the approval of the Children in the Cloud Foundation. This is excellent news, obtained through hard work by our local representative Mirhet Mitiku because it is so difficult to obtain this approval.
Impact of the epidemic in Europe
Switzerland and France, like all of Europe, are suffering the full impact of the pandemic and the containment decreed by the authorities. As a responsible party, we have of course decided to postpone the trip to Sona initially scheduled for the second half of April. The aim is to avoid any risk of the virus spreading.
Remote working tools, with the Foundation's employees as well as with its contractors and partners, are therefore of great importance. Fortunately, these tools were already being used extensively thanks to the efforts made by the Foundation over the past two years to equip its employees and partners with computers and smartphones. These efforts now seem particularly judicious and allow the Foundation to continue its work almost normally.
Impact in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the countries not yet affected by the epidemic, but it is feared that it will spread there as elsewhere. Indeed, the status of Ethiopia, the seat of l'African Union and thus a continental hub, and the accompanying large-scale movement of the world's population, is likely to favour the development of the pandemic in the short term. The isolation of Sona is fortunate from this point of view because, with the tourist season over, the spread of Covid19 is not certain.
Phase 3 construction site - which mainly includes the administration/library block and the teachers' quarters - is underway and has been in full swing for the past 2 months and the end of the harvest season which has freed up a large amount of manpower.
Actions taken by the Foundation
Remote working measures have already been mentioned at the beginning of this article. All the members of the Foundation Board are mobilized to advance the work on its technical aspects and to support the local actors, employees or companies.
Safety of people
The Foundation will ensure that its employees, partners and contractors are as well equipped as possible to deal with the epidemic and the risk of contamination. A budget is available to purchase standard personal protective equipment such as masks, hydro-alcoholic gel, etc.
The epidemic should not, or only slightly, affect Sona because of its isolation. It should therefore be possible to complete the project subject to its supply of materials (sand, cement, rubble, scrap metal, etc.). The priority is therefore to ensure quickly with the company Kedir Hassan which leads the site, the routing of materials to Sona.
The strong volatility of Birr is generally on the decline, in line with the Ethiopian government's policy of competitive devaluation over the past two years. This policy is rather favourable to the Foundation's action, for which it increases purchasing power. However, since financial speculation is contrary to the principles of the Foundation, the money transfers between Switzerland and Ethiopia are now made in advance of needs, both to secure the payment of providers, salaries and taxes, but also to protect against a sudden upward variation in the Birr rate, which is always possible.
Move forward in spite of everything!
The fight against the pandemic and the safety of all is our priority. We can only fear the spread of the Coronavirus in countries such as Ethiopia, which has a very modest health system. We are therefore keeping a close eye on the development of the epidemic on the spot and, if necessary, we will not hesitate to suspend the work of the school if this proves necessary. For the time being, we support the tireless efforts of the actors on the ground who, in the heart of the Simien massif, are working for the future of their children!
Thanks again to all of you for your support!