The Covid-19 crisis, like no other that I know of, is likely to test our resilience as a people. The experts are not couching their words with much hope. Their message is clear – it is going to get worse before it gets better. Furthermore, it is likely to be a protracted experience – four to five months at least. Add to this the conspiracy theories being churned out through the social media, and you have a perfect recipe for fear and despondency. Those who depend on daily wages and roadside business have reason enough to fret. As reports from elsewhere indicate, this must certainly be the government’s real headache.
Following a lockdown ordered in the Philippines, there have been serious riots by low income sections of the population. According to Al Jazeera, the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned that he would order the country’s police and military to shoot dead anyone who creates trouble during the month-long lockdown of the island of Luzon. “Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose,” the President warned. And indeed, it is reported that the police and local officials trapped curfew violators in dog cages, while others were forced to sit in the hot midday sun.
This is obviously a desperate situation for any leader to find him or herself in. But President Duterte is not the only one grappling with this dilemma. Several nations are finding it difficult to contain low income populations in the wake of the pandemic. Human rights groups have expressed concerns over police forces around the world using humiliating forms of punishments to enforce quarantine on the poorest and most vulnerable groups, who on the other hand risk starvation if they do not find work. It is not going to be any different in Kenya if we do not find practical solutions. This calls for a concerted effort from all of us to take care of our vulnerable groups.
SEE ALSO: Why reinfections are making search for vaccine hard
The government should be commended for measures already taken to support various vulnerable groups. The reduction of VAT on essential products and proposed cash transfers are well appreciated. Appeals have also been made to landlords, power and water companies not to harass their customers with demand notes during this period. Whereas these will go a long way in alleviating the impact of the apparently inevitable lockdown, the food factor among the low-income population requires more effort, if we are not to witness the ugly scenes in other nations.
Perhaps the government should set up a national emergency fund into which individuals, corporates, NGOs, the church and other religious groups, together with the international community can make contributions. Institutions and organisations with proven track record of managing community support systems should be charged with the responsibility of ensuring the donations get to deserving people. With the known generosity of Kenyans in times of crisis, we can raise enough to sustain all of us through the next five to six months.
At a different level, Kenyans must face corona with courage and confidence. Panic and fear will rob us of the energy we need to pull through the challenging times ahead – should the predictions come true. Studies have shown that in times of crisis, a positive spirit is key for survival. Jane Brody in an article in the New York Times reports the indisputable link between having a positive outlook and such health benefits as lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels.
Daniel Goleman, known for his studies on emotional intelligence, states that positive emotions widen our span of attention. He makes the interesting observation that such feelings also change our perception, from focusing on the “me” to focusing the “we.” No wonder the Apostle Paul advised, “Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
The implication is that if we are to survive corona, we must choose to see the more positive side of life, even if it is not readily evident. While not concealing the naked truth, we must choose not to be agents of negative energy, falsehood, propaganda, conspiracy theories, and outright fake news. We must think twice about what we post on social media, forward on WhatsApp, or publish in mainstream media. This will call for unusual self-discipline, for the sake of our collective survival. God helping us – we shall overcome!
SEE ALSO: More turbulence ahead for the airline industry
- The writer is the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]