BY PROF DR HALIMU SHAURI
(Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pwani University)
Corona has been with us for sometime now and it looks long time because of the measures that keep us in doors and limit our movement.
The robbing of our freedom to mingle and movement by COVID-19 has made it look like it has been here for ages.
The manner in which corona is scaring, it has taken over the place of HIV/AIDS and many other previous Anti-social diseases (see our earlier article).
Be it as it may, we have had many people getting infected, 126 currently, others recovering, 4 and others dead, 4, including a 6 year old boy.
INFECTED AND AFFECTED
This brings us to the question how are the infected and affected coping with COVID-19?
I was moved yesterday when I had a conversation with one of my readers, called Mohammed, other names withheld for confidentiality purposes.
Mohammed had this to say:
“…What I am seeing is that the stigma and fear that surrounds the affected individuals needs specific interventions and I believe you (Prof Shauri) can come up with words that will give encouragement and strength to both the persons affected and their close relatives”
Indeed, we have focused more on preventing new COVID-19 infections and in the process ignoring those already infected, their families and friends.
We have over prevention and medical management of those infected.
Priority is therefore clear cut: screening, testing, isolation, treatment and care, what about coping at personal, family and community level?
The national COVID-19 steering committee should find a way of starting this conversation with those infected and affected.
It is not only important to prevent and cure but also how to cope with fear, stigma and discrimination of those infected and affected.
Many of those infected are in a state of panic not knowing what to do.
Their families are puzzled on what to do or interact with their loved ones.
Even those declared negative after isolation are worried on how they will be welcome back home and how to interact with others on their return from isolation.
Diseases with high levels of stigma and discrimination, such as COVID-19, have no mechanisms in the family and community for psycho-social support.
Because of lack of this support we will soon begin to experience social problems of domestic violence, divorce rates will go up, conflicts, etc and psychological such as anxiety, fear, depression and even suicide rates may increase.
How then can we encourage all of us to provide this missing psycho-social support?
We must stop stigmatization of COVID-19 positive test results and we must stop discrimination.
Those infected and affected should accept this eventuality and work together towards full recovery.
In addition to the COVID-19 preventive activities, please exercise, keep busy, eat a balanced diet, maintain contact with friends online, and minimize exposure to COVID-19 news to maintain your sanity.
Where you experience signs of lack of sleep, conflicts, depressive tendencies etc seek help, where possible professional help.
Finally, those already infected and affected are our brothers and sisters, they are not cursed or did anything wrong!
They got sick and some will recover, let’s welcome them back with open hands in the family or community, and let’s involve them in our activities within what is allowable by COVID-19 guidelines.
Let’s encourage and support them to full recovery. We are all Kenyans, infected or affected, we remain Kenyans.
We must remain together in a push to be divided by corona.
Let’s not allow corona divides us, be creative, be innovative and together we are stronger than COVID-19.