October 27, 2020

COVID-19 MITIGATION: Where Social Distancing Becomes Social Discrimination

Prof. Halimu Shauri at a past function. Image; (Courtesy)

Episode 12

BY PROF DR HALIMU SHAURI

(Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pwani University)

 In our sister article on “let’s start discussing COVID-19 coping strategies for those infected and affected”, we raised issues of stigma and discrimination as retrogressive in the war against corona.

We also raised issues of non discussion of the topic, yet we have infected and affected families suffering on how to cope or behave with one of their own infected.

Personally, I thank Mohammed for raising this up. In his reaction after reading our article, Mohammed, not hypothetical commented:

“…I am a social scientist, I have also done counselling at different levels … this article has left me crying shading tears paragraph after paragraph…”

This excerpt suggests the weighty issues that infected and affected families maybe undergoing.

We must move first and help such individuals come out of this challenge and regain their sanity and social spaces in the community. This can best be done by:

“…destigmatizing and possibly enforcement of the criminalization of COVID-19 discrimination, just like the criminalization of any form of discrimination captured in our Constitution 2010”.

From a Theory of Change perspective:

“If we don’t de-stigmatize and enforce criminalization of COVID-19 discrimination, then the infected and affected will continue to suffer silently leading to further psycho-social challenges”.

In our sister article, hitherto mentioned, social problems of divorce, separations, domestic violence, conflicts etc will go up and psychological challenges of fear, anxiety, depression and even suicide may escalate.

Mohammed in our conversation today made another useful remark in the fight against COVID-19:

“I will work hard to educate others. Please if you get time {Prof. Dr. Shauri} (fanya kipindi na Sauti ya Pwani Radio) and address this issue … stigma may be the greatest challenge. Hope you had about the cases of mob discrimination and justice to a Chinese at Kibera Slums and Kwale, or that of discrimination and rejection of an Italian in Lamu …this trend may not be good…Social Distancing should not be made into Social Discrimination”.

Suffice to say, Mohammed, puts it very well in his remarks captured in the excerpt. His remarks direct us to another Theory of Change today:

“Where we don’t address COVID-19 stigma and discrimination, then social distancing become social discrimination”.

Kenyans observing the social distancing rule as directed by Government. Image; (Courtesy)

I call upon all agencies in the fight against COVID-19 and all my fellow Kenyans, to ensure that their service delivery to the infected and affected includes a conscious attempt to deal with any iota of stigma and discrimination.

Normalization of the war against corona will be attained when humanity comes to terms that corona is a disease, though dangerous and kills, but is like other equally dangerous and killing diseases with no cure or vaccine yet and not stigmatized.

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