Lockdown, locusts and meagre livelihoods

While the case numbers of Covid-19 remain relatively low in Australia compared to other nations, our daily lives have been turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us have experienced frustration and despair as we have been stood down or lost our job, required to isolate and are unable to visit loved ones. 

While many Australians are doing it tough, consider the overwhelming wave of trials that have hit a country such as Uganda during this time.

We talked to Jill Vine, Communications Officer for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), who lives and works in Kampala with her husband, MAF Uganda’s chief pilot and their two remaining daughters (one daughter is in lockdown in London).  Jill shared some of their experiences and also about launching the Feed5000 Appeal.

Jill and Greg Vine with daughters Esther, Ariela and Zoe


Hi Jill, what is the situation like in Uganda right now?

The damage to the population has not been so much from the virus but from the tight restrictions that have been in place for the last five months. There are no safety nets here, and no job means no food. The need is overwhelming.  On top of the restrictions, there have been flash floods in Kasese and elsewhere around the country and a plague of locusts is heading across East Africa towards Uganda, 20 times stronger than the last swarm.  At the moment, the emergency need is so great. 

How did you come up with the Feed5000 Appeal?

It was from two fish and five loaves of bread that Jesus fed the 5000.  I’m amazed that Jesus told the disciples ‘You feed them’ but they ended up being solely the distributors (they weren’t having to deal with restrictions and issues like accessing cash from 10kms walk away either!)  The boy gave of what he had willingly, and Jesus performed the miracle.  

While we have never been about hand-outs and focus on empowering through training, networking and business grants, right now families are going to bed hungry and this is urgent.

My driving force is Jesus who never overlooked any person, no matter how little, how poor, how much of an outsider, how unlovely.

MAF isn ‘t usually about handouts, but families were going to bed hungry.


How are you providing practical assistance?

We have a team here on the ground who deliver food door to door to half of the number we’ve been able to reach. We’re able to speed up reaching families who live further away by sending funds directly through mobile money which is an effective way to help a wider group of people in need more quickly, especially when we’re working alongside restrictions.  Up until a few weeks ago we had been providing support without any vehicles available or transport, except for purchased food deliveries.

Jill, the Covid-19 lockdown is entering its 15th week in Uganda.  How are you and your family holding up?

We still have no school, church, all flights have been discontinued and private cars were not being allowed to be used without special permission.  We still have a strict curfew from 7 pm till 6 am to help discourage crime.  All smaller shops are still closed, and motorbike taxis are not allowed to carry passengers.  My daughter was due to either start university in the UK in September or begin a job she had been offered in Scotland to kick start a possible gap year, but it is unlikely that will be an option for her which is disappointing. We don’t know when we will be able to fly home.   We’re also looking at her flying directly to Australia and applying to universities in Queensland beginning in February because UK is still so uncertain. 

Has MAF still been operating in this time?

Unfortunately, many of our planes have been grounded and our airstrip has been partially flooded. Our fleet for now is safely at Entebbe International Airport so we can respond to any emergencies once we have permission to fly… Because of our ground operations working hard to get the planes out in time, finally last month MAF was able to deliver relief to the flood victims in Kasese with 60 single-leg flights loaded up with aid for the 125,000 people who have been displaced.

MAF Pilot Greg Vine


How many families have Feed5000 Appeal reached so far?

We’ve seen so many give generously from mostly UK and Australia to the Feed5000 Appeal that we’ve doubled our original formidable challenge and have fed to date almost 12,000 people who were going to bed hungry for weeks. It dawned on me after we set this challenge that it’s not just one meal like the disciples gave out, but enough to carry these desperate families over for at least two weeks.  

Desperate families have received enough food and fuel to last at least 2 weeks.


If you would like to donate and stay up to date with this project head to donorsee.com/jillvine.

For more about how MAF is assisting with the Corona Crisis around the world visit www.maf-uk.org/news/coronavirus-world-news

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