By Simon Kasyate, Country Lead, Program Communications, Uganda, Mastercard Foundation
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of people’s lives in an unprecedented manner. “Happy New Year 2020” a merry tone that sounded off people’s lips at the start of this year, now changed verse and tone to “tonsemberera” a local term loosely translated as don’t come near me “Physical distancing”.
While many of its repercussions, such as lockdown-related psychological distress and social distancing measures, closure of different institutions, have affected everyone, we have all experienced its impact in dissimilar ways.
The world has seen unemployed masses and other COVID-19 related consequences such as gender-based violence, hunger, malnutrition, mental distress among others. Evidence from previous pandemics suggests that exposure to domestic violence increases during lockdown measures, leaving adolescents, children, and women vulnerable to violence by family members and intimate partners with long-lasting psychological impacts. 55 percent of children interviewed reported increased violence during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014. Therefore, while the older population are more prone to having physical health issues, the effect the pandemic has had on education, employment, and social well-being is more likely to cause a downward spiral for the younger generation in various aspects.
With this disruptive occurrence, a number of organizations have swiftly stepped in to circulate information among people to help contain the spread of the virus. They have also provided access to educational, peer-to-peer mental health advice and put in place other programs to support adolescents and young adults during lockdown. The information shared is intended to provide support to the elderly and other vulnerable groups at increased risk of becoming infected and in combatting stigma as well as discrimination. These initiatives through recovery and resilience programs have been crucial to mitigate the effects of loneliness and anxiety, thereby promoting social cohesion.
Even so, a lot needs to be done to help our communities strive through this period. Consequently, at Mastercard Foundation, through the Mastercard Foundation Public Awareness Campaign, we continue to seek to share as much information as possible that will help guide people to keep safe and steer clear of the myths surrounding COVID-19.
That said, at the end of the day, IT IS UP TO US as individuals to take personal responsibility to ensure we observe the guidelines and put into practice the information shared on how to best protect ourselves, protect our families and protect our communities.
We are therefore all encouraged to ensure that we do all in our power to keep safe, observe physical distancing, support each other, because it’s only by a combined effort that we can subdue the spread of the virus and help bring back to normalcy. We must remember, we are now one team against a common enemy — COVID-19. Therefore, building resilience and taking responsibility for our actions should be pursued deliberately.