This horrific pandemic being experienced the world over, is like something out of a horror film. There is fear, there is anticipation, there is mental and emotional negotiation, there is real hardship around earnings and economies shall struggle. Mostly, as is normal for those of us who live in a 1st world situation, we’ve worried about when santizers, disinfectants and masks will be restocked on our shelves. We have posted on social media about selfish people over-buying. We have name-and-shamed stores for charging insane amounts of money for basics which are now difficult to find. We have complained about being isolated at home.
For many in 3rd world situations, however, to be able to have our worries such as these would be a godsend. Most of our country is, sadly, not living in a 1st world situation. In South Africa, we start off this pandemic with a state of affairs which is concerning to say the least, heart-wrenching to watch and which can only worsen as fear and desperation increase.
We must be prepared for the possible and likely eventualities of this crisis for our country, not in order to live in fear or to panic, but to be aware, prepared, willing to defend ourselves and our loved ones, and for openness to be kind and gain perspective and come together. If we do not prepare in this way, then we cannot play an effective role in our developing country, with all its beauty and its flaws.
THE ISSUES WE FACE:
- Most people in this country live in poverty. Most rely on SASSA (South African Social Security Agency) for various grants. Most queue in crowded places for these grants. There are measures being put in place, but it is unclear how exactly they will control the crowds and limit the number of people being serviced at any one time to 100.
- Most people are uneducated and living in densely populated and unhygienic situations with more than 2 generations living under one roof. Children are often raised by their grandparents.
- The homelessness situation is especially concerning, with an estimated few hundred thousand. There is no official national census on the number of homeless and researchers rely on studies of cities. In Johannesburg alone there are estimated to be around 110,000 homeless people.
- 21% are HIV positive. These are official statistics and are therefore likely higher as many do not get tested. Over 100,000 people die every year from Tuberculosis (80% of those deaths are HIV related). South Africa has one of the world’s highest Tuberculosis death rates.
- Our unemployment rate is officially at 29%, already higher by the mass emigration which has happened over the last couple of years. This is very high to begin with and will of course be higher now.
- Of great concern has been the plainly bizarre attitude and almost mocking way in which many have danced in large crowds while singing the word “Corona”, almost in an act of ignorant defiance.This is a problem with education, collective attitude, beliefs. As of today, there are officially 554 cases here, which means it has almost tripled over the last couple of days. This behaviour tells us this number is already going to rise drastically, without question:
Desperation and illness will, without a doubt, rise. When this happens the rest of our country’s difficulties will rise too.
The concern here with this combination of factors, other than the main and obvious concern of the death, illness and suffering, is the extreme political Left’s hijacking of the suffering, as a tool to gain political traction. Having one of the highest crime rates in the world means this is, of course, a recipe for possible disaster.
These political elements will take advantage of this situation and profess to stand for those who are without, to stand for those who are poor and desperate. They will likely rally a supportive, fearful and angry crowd, as we have seen in recent times. By no means do supporters of these parties represent the majority of the county, but it does not matter.
Aside from the obvious need to remain vigilant and support those parties who can get this under control, we need to keep our compassion and kindness intact.
I would like to share a personal story; in the name of the connection and kindness we need right now.
When I stopped at a traffic light, a homeless man came to my car window, as they so often do. This man was holding an empty garbage bag, as this is the only way he knows to earn anything – offering, at a traffic light, to collect your car’s garbage in the desperate hope that you will part with a few coins.
He did not ask me for money or food. This man asked me for gloves, seeing I had a pair on.
He was frightened, he is homeless, he has absolutely no idea about gloves or washing or disinfecting. It’s another planet for him. He doesn’t know when he will next eat. Gloves will likely be useless given his hygiene.
I gave him disinfectant soap, water and a snack and explained how he must wash and not touch his face. It was simple. He felt cared for.
We will probably not be able to easily drive around to get our groceries and bring such items to people in most desperate need, and it is not safe now in any event. However, you can still play a role by contacting your Ward Councillor and getting involved in the aid of the homeless. At the time when we can go out to get groceries, do a small act of kindness. It will go a very long way for us all.
Most importantly, and this simply cannot be stressed enough, stay locked down, stay at home.
#Simunye #Coronavirus #Lockdown #Stayhome