Can we talk about the "19" of Covid-19? Doesn't 2019 seem soooooo long ago!? Maybe we had problems in 2019, but as we look back we may wish we could have told our 2019-selves "buckle up, the world as you know it is about to change drastically."
Although we spent two months at Kibuye in the summer of 2019 (July-August), I'd say our true missionary career started here mid-January 2020. It's been a bit bizarre living here these past four months as our world has changed due to the pandemic. Our lives would look so different if we were in the States right now. As an outpatient pediatrician, I would probably be doing telemedicine there. As a general surgeon, maybe Michael wouldn't be doing as many elective cases. Here, it's (almost) life as usual. There have been no big changes mandated by the government except for the fact that the airport has been closed for almost two months and there was a mandatory 2-week quarantine for anyone who flew into Bujumbura. Schools are still running, churches are still gathering, and people are still working.
How do you stop work when a majority of the population earns their daily wage then goes to buy food for dinner? How do you stop schools when there is no online option? How do you tell people to stock up on food when only 9.3% of the population has access to electricity?
At Kibuye, of the remaining seven family-units, five of them contain doctors so most of us are leaving the compound and working at the hospital as per usual (plus face mask usage). We still have family worship on Saturday afternoons, each family on a blanket on the floor of the outdoor pavilion. The remaining children are still attending school and because there are so few left, social distancing even in a classroom is possible.
We haven't seen a wave of patients severely ill with respiratory disease, at least on the adult side. In Peds, it's "bronchiolitis season" and therefore we are seeing a lot of respiratory illness, and even subsequent death which unfortunately is not uncommon for this season. Is it Covid-19? I don't know, and we probably never will because of the limitations in testing for the virus and because of the lack of specificity of symptoms for the disease. We have heard of some people in Kibuye with anosmia, the loss of sense of smell, which is a more particular symptom. As not many other things cause that symptom, it could cause one to assume that it is circulating here. Thus far, however, we are thankful to have avoided any crisis.
This week is also a very big week in Burundi; May 20th is Election Day. There have been multiple political rallies (even one just outside the hospital), which have been peaceful. We hear campaign cars driving by at least 2-3 times day giving their information in Kirundi and playing music. Please pray for peace leading up to and after Election Day.