Let us not forget
Am I too self-absorbed? I have been thinking a lot about how the corona virus (just think, most of us never even knew that word at the start of the year) is affecting me, my family, my friends around the world. However, two things have hit me in the past twenty-four hours: firstly, the rest of the world has not stopped turning – terrible things are still happening – and secondly, how much I am taking for granted; yes, me, who thinks I am open-minded and aware and careful. Let me elaborate.
Trying to keep up with social media I spotted a post from UNICEF (now shared on Facebook). It’s an excerpt from a poem written by a sixteen-year-old Syrian girl. The war in Syria has not stopped. We are in the middle of an pandemic that will last some time. The war has lasted ‘some time’ and shows no signs of stopping. It is not the only war.
In the midst of all the emails from responsible C.E.O.s of companies like Neals Yard, Holland and Barrett and KLM was one from Greenpeace: don’t forget that when this is all over, climate change will still be with us. How often has that been mentioned in the media in the last two weeks? No more burning forests? Not true. A quick look at Global Forest Watch for Brazil in the past seven days shows an alarming number of fire alerts.
Then today I was engaged in a long overdue chat with a dear friend in Tanzania. She seemed unaware of our situation here in Europe so I took time to explain the number of cases and deaths, the measures being taken, etc.. I was under the blissful impression that, although tourism was being hit in Tanzania, which would of course affect livelihoods, the low number of cases there (seven she said) meant the situation was not dire. However, as our exchanges crossed, she wrote the following:
We are taking precautions although almost all of those are challenges here. Yu can imagine;
- Not enough water for washing hands in many areas here
- Not easy to avoid overcrowded. Just think about our markets. Clients and rich people just talk about rural areas.
- Not easy to keep enough food inside because there is no fridges in many houses and this need cash
- Hospitals are another challenges except for clients and people who can afford all that.
- On top of that, the power is not friendly! On and off and most of time off.
- No jobs, we did not save money because our companies are small and growing as we go. Imagine!
Of course you know this dear.
Do I? Yes I do, but I had not made the all-important connection to COVID-19. Sharing this thought a short time later with a friend in UK, she told me our mutual Zimbabwean friend is worried sick about contamination in such settings there. In some places hand-washing stations are being set up near markets but in the dry season in rural Tanzania, where women walk ten km to get water to drink, water is a luxury. Our delightful hand-washing videos are laughable in this context.
I am not trying to be self-critical here… well, yes I am actually. It is far too easy to focus on our own situation and to become absorbed in a single issue. Global media are encouraging us to do so, mostly for the right reasons as there is much we need to know, but also the corona virus outbreak is enabling us to forget the challenges that will not go away in a few weeks, as we hope COVID-19 will.
And then there are places in the Indian sub-continent, South America, Asia – all places where water is scarce and washing your hands as you sing, “Happy Birthday” is a pipedream; all places where a fridge is a luxury, where people have not got savings to fall back on and where quality healthcare is for the privileged and was unable to cope even before the pandemic.
In these confusing and disturbing times it is important to understand and respond responsibly to the situation we are in, but let us not forget that many of us reading this are undergoing hardship and constraint, uncertainty and confusion about circumstances beyond our control for the first time. For the majority of the world this is daily life. Let us not forget.