In Uganda – The Covid19 virus and the measures taken by government to curb the spread of the virus, hit cross borders truck drivers hard.
Depression soon set in as the validation I wanted proved elusive. Hadn't I done enough, I wondered. Hadn't I denied myself sugar, downloaded calorie counting apps, lost fat and gained muscles, bought water bottles and mason jars for my shakes?
As disruptive as this pandemic was for many micro-, small-, and medium enterprises owned and run by women, several survived and thrived through it all in Rwanda.
Covid19 restrictions and lockdowns led to negative effects on mental health on people from disparate walks of life, the world over. In fact the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that people who were holed up at home for a long time, became susceptible to loneliness, elevated rates of stress, anxiety and depression among other repercussions.
According to a Nigerian node?.data?.uri published in August 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in the country, it was discovered that depression went up to about 55% in males, 49% in females. In the same study, anxiety was found to have spiked by 51%. I spoke to 3 young Nigerians about their experience.
“It was very tough, to be honest with you. I was stuck at home with my parents. We don’t get along that often, so we would fight over the most trivial things. We would also fight over things that mattered to me—imagine hearing queer phobic and misogynistic things said under the cloak of religion, all day long. You would lose your mind. My anxiety also skyrocketed. There were days I went to bed in tears. On other days, I would call my best friends and they would lull me to sleep. I also didn’t want to have anything to do with the news. As the deaths increased, there was just one question on my mind: was I next? However, I learnt how to play board games; chess, ludo and scrabble. Although I am not perfect yet, I realised little things like winning a scrabble game lifted my mood.” — Damiloju, 19.
“I wanted to die. Nothing exactly made any more sense. My life was already in disarray and the pandemic was that tipping point. I overdosed on sleeping tablets at a point but some way, somehow, I didn’t go under. I started to self-harm. It started with creating welts on my skin with rubber bands then to full blown use of sharp objects. I needed to control my mind which was filled with intrusive thoughts. It didn’t work anyways. I used psychoactive drugs too. I was too sad and I needed an alternate reality. However, in the heat of the pandemic, I got a job. It was a dream job; I became a remote writer for a media team. I had tasks and meetings all day. It wasn't a strong suit but I easily adapted to it. Not only did it up my productivity -by reducing my idleness- and finances, but it also helped distract me from the thoughts of the virus.” —Milan, 21
“I stress ate and overslept. Sleeping at 9pm and waking up at 12am the next day was the norm for me. Everyday seemed the same, so what was the point? The pandemic put the most important part of my life, the academic part, on hold, so what was I meant to do? I became a cleanliness freak, too. I would wash my hands several times in a minute and I would stay in my room for fear of touching surfaces, even in my own house. It was pretty traumatizing and chaotic. On the plus side, I was able to pick up hobbies from YouTube; I learnt how to yoga by following Yoga with Adrienne. It helped calm my mind and strengthened my core. I also tried out new recipes: Chicken teriyaki, peppered turkey wings, Party Jollof rice, Moinmoin and Akara. You can call me a chef now.” —Yusluv, 21.
Even though the surge in infections has reduced, it has indeed been an unprecedented period for everyone. The lockdown was lifted several months ago, and places of work opened and the nation returned to a version of her normal self. Reverting to people interviewed, even though they felt some trepidation and fear when they are outdoors, the lifting of the lockdown has been a breath of fresh air. They can go out and visit friends. They feel better and restored and social connection has improved their mental states.
However, in the future, mental health and psychosocial support services that are relevant to this age group should be available to all as persons. As interviewees mentioned there was little or no mental assistance during the peak of the pandemic. Also, there should be government owned facilities which are up and running, affordable and accessible to all.
Having witnessed the loss of vegetation coverage in Nairobi, the onus is on Kenyans to support the government’s efforts at reforestation.
During lockdown, a combination of curiosity and boredom enticed me to join the dating app, Tinder, where I learnt to no longer worry about how the world perceives my actions
As a man of considerable size, I constantly worried about contracting covid, adopting extreme measures that included starving myself to lose weight and regulate my high blood pressure
John Nkengasong is the Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is also the WHO special envoy for Africa. John spoke to CovidHQAfrica desk about a range of issues including his vision for the vaccines in Africa, and his greatest worry.
Africa is in a second wave of the virus, what should we be doing?
Avoid gatherings, and do face masking as much as possible. I think if we do all of those things then increase our testing and then we at least have the public health measures in place. Second is to be aggressive with the vaccine. There is no way we are going to completely eliminate this without vaccination to achieve health immunity which targets 60% of the population. The third thing we need to do is to put in measures for care. That is essentially dramatically increasing oxygen. We need availability of oxygen because a lot of the mortality that we are seeing is because of the lack of very basic needs like lack of oxygen.
Why has the variant hit South Africa so hard and not the rest of us. Is it a matter of time?
I think the variant has hit South Africa hard because they are sequencing in a very systematic way. The hypothesis and assumption is that you already have this variant all over the continent. It is just that it is not being sequenced. Like now we know that we have the same variant in Botswana and Zambia and I am sure, if it is sequenced, in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland too. You will see the variant across the continent. So, it is just because South Africa has the tools and has a stronger sequencing system there. The same measures for the new variant apply: wear your mask, wash your hands, and sanitise. That will get rid of the variant.
What is your vision for the vaccination plan in Africa. How do you go about vaccinating 60% of a billion people?
I am happy you start with a 60%, that is a target and that is a target we believe will allow us to achieve community immunity or heard immunity. I think that is very important and the thing is that we truly don't have a choice. We have to get ourselves into a mode where we use all means possible to get to that target in a very short period of time. So, it is not a choice of whether we do it or not. We have to do it and do it at scale. Now, What we need to do to get there is that we need to use a phased approach. If you look at the epidemiology of a pandemic a lot of infections are of course in a major city, that is where you start. You start with setting up vaccination centers which of course are tied to the health centre around them, say for example in Nairobi, It is very possible that if you can put 20 vaccination centers, which means 4 things you have to put in place.
One, if you have a minus 70 refrigerator, back that up with a generator so that your vaccine does not suffer any shock when electricity goes off. Two, train your health care workers. I mean a lot of them so that doctors, nurses are all trained to deliver that shot. Three, create a register to track people, because remember all the vaccines that we have for now require that you vaccinate and then you come back after three to four weeks. So, you really need a close follow up. Four, the community. Make sure that you intensify community vaccine literacy which means that the radio, the media, social media are all engaged in explaining to the population why they must return to complete their second dose. Otherwise your loss that will follow out will be significant and your vaccine program will fail. Do this for a few months, then other companies will come with their own vaccines that require normal cold chains like two to four degrees to eight degrees and we can begin to use that to expand that into more and more areas of the country. So, Let's not make this look like it is some rocket science, no. We have rolled out anti-retroviral therapy across Africa massively. We know how all these things work is just a question of devoting and applying ourselves to it.
What worries you the most?
What worries me most is that the continent doesn't get its vaccination program in a timely fashion. That means we have to pursue an aggressive process not a passive process. If we are passive, our economies will continue to be shattered, the death toll would increase significantly and virus may become more widespread in Africa. Lastly I would not be surprised that by the end of the year or in the middle of the year when Europe and the United States have finished their vaccination, they would issue a requirement that you will have to have a covid vaccine certificate to fly. That would become a tough thing for the continent of 1.3 billion people to move around. The second thing is the lack of availability of oxygen on the continent. As you get more cases, more people are sick and they are going to the hospitals to seek care and overwhelming the hospitals. It would help if oxygen was available, and you can actually divert traffic from the hospitals to the local health centre. Availability of oxygen to manage mild to severe cases is very important as access to vaccines in a timely fashion is critical. I think those are the two things that will begin to change as we manage the second wave of the pandemic
While it took some time to get used to home church services, they are now a fixture in my family's life and beat the alternative of social distancing in a physical church
The banning of private public transport during lockdown divested David Dube, 30, a Combi driver of five years, of his income.
The pandemic heightened the speed in which the continent is moving away from cash. Countries in East, Southern and West Africa already had well-established cashless platforms in operation, which were gaining increased traction among the public
My world stopped when Ian, my only sibling, tested positive for covid-19 barely five months after Kenya announced its first case.
With mass gatherings banned, wedding ceremonies could only accommodate 15 people, which meant my waving bye-bye to friends and family along with my 12-tier, multi-flavoured cake, reception dance, speeches, and the roast goat my family eagerly awaited.
Three food bloggers from Botswana detail how lockdown expanded their horizon
The covid lockdown took away my parents jobs but couldn't steal my family's joy
Covid’s effect on travel and tourism has been disastrous, but perhaps we will learn a new rhythm, something a little slower that will compel us to observe and appreciate our planet better.
As a child of a medical practitioner, I understand firsthand the gravity of covid-19 and know how scary these trying times can be for families of essential workers. But if this pandemic has revealed anything to me, it’s the doggedness of these communities.
When sights of Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro photographed from Nairobi began appearing on social media, they were at first rejected as photo shopped, until people stepped outside to see them for themselves.
The Coronavirus pandemic profoundly affected our lives and the ways in which we relate to ourselves, our families, and our loved ones. While life in lockdown necessitated close contact with some of our loved ones, social distancing measures also had the effect of shielding us from potentially tense situations with friends and the broader community.
I spoke to a few young Nigerians who shared their experience of relationships under lockdown conditions.
"As students at the same school, we saw each other every day before the pandemic, so when lockdown happened, it was a traumatic experience. We weren't used to being so far away from each other. The petty fights increased; we couldn't communicate properly and at one point, we were at the brink of a break up. However, towards the end of the lockdown, a switch happened in our relationship. We communicated our fears and how we felt. Since then our relationship has been going smoothly. We crack jokes without fear of being misunderstood. We still fight but we respond to the fights rather than react, they also aren’t drawn out for days anymore. We also change the media of communication we use from time to time, to prevent monotony. I might as well be grateful for the pandemic, because we know each other better and learned better ways to handle conflict."
"We started dating in the lockdown. We were at first Internet friends who decided to see how a relationship would go. When we finally decided to start dating, the decision coincided with the lockdown. We hadn't seen each other prior so all we had were pictures, videos, and trust. For us, it wasn't all rosy; we had unnecessary and trivial fights but there was the reassurance that when we saw each other, all those petty fights and disagreements would reduce. When the lockdown restrictions were removed, we started counting down the days to when we would finally see each other and by Jove, that day was one of the most memorable days of my life. There was no shyness or weird moments, it was like we'd known each other forever. All I saw virtually,was exactly what she portrayed physically." - Hassan, 27
"It had always been a long distance relationship but with the Covid thrown in, the distance felt even longer and infinite. Also, even though it was a long distance relationship, it was a busy one so we always had an experience to relay to each other when we spoke. This time, it became routine; we asked the same questions, replied with the same answers, and had the same experiences. In summary, the relationship was getting bland as it became a duty to talk about the day even when I had nothing to say. We also had financial issues because we weren't in school and our source of funding had been halted, so communication became strained. There were times I wouldn’t hear from my boyfriend for days and I'd get very upset and a fight would pop up. It was a really hard time for us. Even though the lockdown has been removed, we are still in a long distance relationship, but this time, we are in a better place; the distance doesn't feel infinite anymore and we can visit each other now." - Didi, 21.
"My boyfriend and I broke up during the pandemic. My love languages are physical intimacy and quality time, and I wasn't getting either. So I became touchy and irritable, always itching for a fight. We talked about it and tried several simulations but it didn't help so much; I wanted to cuddle up and kiss my baby. When I got tired of the situation and realized that the Lockdown wasn't going to end anytime soon, I upped and left the relationship. It was a sad situation but it had to be done. Now, I'm living my love life vicariously through my boo'd up friends and it's the best thing ever. I get to share the joys, sadness, and milestones in their relationships - Pemi, 19.
"I cohabited with my partner during the lockdown. It was funny because it wasn't planned, I just came over to see her for a while and then, the lockdown happened. I even had to shop for clothes and other basic necessities, it was that bad. At first, it was rosy and sweet, it felt like we were already married. The close proximity was exhilarating. As time winded, we got tired of being in the same space. Tiny things pissed us off. The intimacy reduced and we reduced to strangers occupying the same place. We eventually got to talk about how we felt and how being holed in the same place affected our relationship. We also communicated our fears and expectations for each other. It has been smooth sailing since then; we don't get into each other's way and we respect each other's boundaries. Our relationship is better now as we've gotten insight on how marriage would be like and have conquered those issues we might have then." - Dami, 23.
Pouncing upon iron roof It’s the friend who descends at dawn Like the enemy whose face we never truly know