My Conversation With Audrey Kanyesigye of Just Like My Child Foundation in Uganda.
Faces of Quarantine, One Virus Many Faces
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was feeling terrified as all the news showed big numbers of people dying and new infections rising each day globally. It scared me to think of what the virus could do in my country, and if Uganda could handle such a situation, and the realization of how under-equipped our healthcare facilities are, scared me even more. Now, I am less scared maybe because this virus is no longer new to my ears, and I am more in a state of uncertainty when I ponder about all the effects the situation has and is yet to bring.
The restrictions on movement are new to me. Being free to move is no longer an option, and it makes me plan, no more last-minute purchases for household supplies at a shop just barely 10 meters from my home since curfew starts at 7 pm to 6 am. This is also the longest I can remember that I am cooped up in the house, trying to work from home and spending time with my daughters, sister, and nieces as schools too are closed. I also have been using my phone a lot more for work and accessing news as it comes in as opposed to waiting for news hour in the late evening.
My biggest concern is that, If the lockdown persists for longer (as we have currently gone for 40 days), what happens to all the people that have no food, and those that will soon run out? How sustainable will food aid be to only a few? Many families are in a state of panic, which builds up to violent situations due to the lack of basic needs. I am shocked to see that people refuse to follow the restrictive measures in place even when it seems counterproductive for their own health, safety, wealth, and the beautiful acts of giving and sharing.
I do think a considerable amount of people(of course not all)are following the rules- the curfews in place, the lockdown measures, the handwashing, and wearing of masks. Over 50% of infected people have recovered; not many new cases are registered weekly and no deaths. Currently, there is a pause on how to curb infections, with more than half of all cases are coming in from the cargo trucker drivers from our neighboring countries Kenya and Tanzania. Since what they have in transit are necessary goods for the survival of the people of Uganda and neighbors like Southern Sudan.
I am currently sheltering in Kampala, and I have never seen the city this dull and tranquil with no noise from night hangouts, no traffic from boda-bodas, and taxis for public transport. There is barely any dust in the air from fast-moving traffic as usually is the case, and I do not hear cases of traffic accidents that are very common in the city.
I believe we are all to blame, as we refused to take China seriously and didn’t start the restrictions on time. The world could have cared more and acted faster. In my country, I think the cases of people with COVID were inefficiently registered from incoming cargo truck drivers, and this caused more spread. Now, it seems to be under control, but I worry that if vigilance is not upheld, then we are likely to have the numbers go up within our communities.
I think in the short term, we will see many people struggle to get back on their feet financially. Still, for the most part, I want to believe it will be for the better as we see more people practice basic yet essential hygiene. I hope people will understand the need for personal time for overall mental health, the value of family, caring for each other, practice efficient ways of getting work done effectively through harnessing technology, and focusing on what is really important. I also wish that our governments will understand the importance of health, environment, and agriculture and understand that they are the real backbone of our economy and decide to put more investment in them.
I’ve learned a lot from reading about the different pandemics in history and how they came to pass, and the recoveries that have been seen globally from those who contracted the virus. All of it gives me hope for us too! My message to the world is that, stay calm, believe that this will soon be history, and embrace every positive moment we may have during this time. We are all in this together.
Audrey Kanyesigye is a team leader at Just Like My Child Foundation in Uganda, the makers of the Girl Power Project. They aim to empower young adolescent girls with skills to help them navigate adolescence successfully while reducing early pregnancies, school dropouts, and all forms of violence against girls and women.