My eyes were still blurry as I woke up to my neighbor’s call, and staggered to her gate yawning. I found her plucking vegetables which she then handed them to me and insisted we make a good meal out of them. This piece is not to brag about how kind my neighbor is, though she is. Rather, it is to show the importance of debunking the myth of ‘social distancing.’ We can be physically apart as individuals but this is the time our nation, the continent, and globe need to be socially intact. To reduce the impact of the pandemic, we are forced to mind our own. In a time of isolation what we need is each other.
A recent news headline by newzimbabwe.com described how many Harare West residents are feeding on worms after running out of food. Alas, food security has been an issue of concern during the lockdown. There have been no economic structures or models put in place to respond to the crisis. Middle and low-income strata cannot afford to stay at home: those who live on hand to mouth routines such as small scale fishers, those who sell thatching grass and some who harvest forest produce
Imagine the vendors at the bottom whose survival in ‘normal’ times depends largely on selling to informal workers. Now that the informal sector has not been working, how are they surviving? It’s time that as individuals, we practice personal support levels to people in our circles and reach out to the next person. The impact of socially removing the middle and low-income groups from their lives as they have always known it has also been raising concern regarding their stress and how to help them keep good mental health. Human beings were created for relationships. The Global Institute of Mental Health mirrored that loneliness can kill more people than any disease in the world.
To appreciate government efforts to contain the pandemic, we need to stay physically apart but socially intact. COVID19 precautions have seen Africanisation and its values being compromised. I have failed to conceive the practicality of not being able to shake hands or hold those who are in grief after losing a loved one – a gesture that embodies solidarity, empathy, and Ubuntu.
We need to set straight the fable and support each other realizing that being quarantined does not mean isolation. We need to think of the 80% of women in the agriculture sector worldwide who provide the food they do not have. We need to think of the elderly in the village. Hivos has reported how the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged women’s jobs on horticulture farms. Casual workers have suffered the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as most farm owners have shut the door for non-resident workers despite them constituting the majority workers on most farms, as a way to curb the spread of the virus.
I thought Covid-19 was an apocalypse and that we would wake up in a new world without this virus rapid. It is as if we slept in one world and woke up in another. At times we are confined to the walls of our own homes and we are shut to the real struggle behind the other doors. Just because there is no violence does not mean there is no peace. Constantly, people are in self-thought battles on what to give their children to eat and tomorrow‘s predicaments.
History articulates after every hundred years the world faces a catastrophe like this, and we have COVID-19. While we take all precautions necessary to stop the spread of the virus, let us spare some thought and support those in most need during the lockdown.