There’s no doubt that we are a nation at war, fighting for our very survival against an invisible enemy which continues to torment and ravage nations far more equipped, endowed and prepared than ours. Whether the coronavirus eviscerates us and in what manner remains to be seen. But that doesn’t mean we should fold our arms in despair and wait for the worst to come.
We may be fighting from a losing position, but from what I’ve seen we are doing our best to give ourselves a fighting chance. Perhaps, with some common sense, proper planning, a heavy dose of good luck and maybe, just maybe, a lot of tablets of hydroxychloroquine, we’d come through this scarred but not broken.
One of the commonsensical measures we needed to take to prevent the rapid transmission of the virus, was to impose restrictions on the movement of citizens – restrictions better known the world over the ‘lockdown’. One would have thought that the government would have placed the entire nation on lockdown in the face of such a serious threat, but the administration decided to start with just Accra and Kumasi, which have so far recorded the largest number of coronavirus cases since the first one was confirmed in Ghana in early March.
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Imposing the lockdown on just Accra and Kumasi was a pragmatic thing for the government to do and so that’s one box ticked. I don’t think we can go through this crisis without placing the entire nation on lockdown at some point.
I suspect the government prefers a phased approach, very much aware of how a sudden nationwide lockdown could impact the vast majority of Ghanaians who have no toilet facilities in their homes, who live hand-to-mouth and therefore need to be out hustling on the streets and in the markets every day (repeat: every day!) in order to feed themselves and their families. If the restrictions are not well thought through and not enforced in a humane, compassionate manner hunger will kill more Ghanaians than the virus which has compelled these restrictions.
In other words, if we don’t tread cautiously, the cure could end up being worse than the disease itself.
I saw a lot of hunger on the afternoon of Sunday, April 5, 2020 when I joined the trustees of the Ghana Covid-19 Private Sector Fund to distribute hot cooked meals in Accra to some head porters (popularly known as ‘kayayei’) who are among the wretched Ghanaian poor worst affected by this lockdown. It was quite a sobering spectacle for me at Darkuman and I felt so sad to see dozens of these ‘kayayei’ lined up to get some food and water.
Hunger was etched all over their faces as they waited for the food packs. Times must really be had for them as their livelihoods have effectively been taken from them, albeit temporarily, thanks to a disease imported to their country by relatively better-off compatriots who can afford foreign travel. The Covid-19 Private Sector Fund intends to feed about 10,000 of these ‘kayayei’ every day for as long as lockdown remains in place or for as long as they can afford.
It was also gratifying that hours after I had been with the ‘kayayei’ at Odorkor, the president announced that government will be regularly providing dry food packages and hot cooked meals to some 400,000 people in the lockdown areas – also for as long as the restrictions remain in force.
The problem is that, like all government programmes, we should expect delays, some chaos, significant confusion and a lot of corruption with this effort to keep the deprived people in the lockdown areas fed. I hope though that greed and avarice will be reduced to the barest minimum in this endeavour and that through it all the poor in our midst will not starve to death before coronavirus catches up with them.
That shouldn’t happen.
One of our key objectives as we battle against coronavirus should be this: either we all die of coronavirus or we work together to defeat it with minimal fatalities. Not a single Ghanaians should die of lockdown-induced hunger.
That said, I suspect strongly that the lockdown will be extended to cover other parts of the country. That means there will be more mouths to feed from Axim to Koforidua to Bolgatanga and Tamale. This is a time for us to band together and support each other. Please, if you have the means, make a donation to either the private sector fund or the government effort. The government, it seems is only accepting hefty cheques and bumper donations.
The private sector fund, however, has room for whatever you may have. So if your heart is moved, go where your pocket leads. What’s most important is that we look out for the poor and the less privileged in our communities and help them with food and other necessities. It will amaze you what a 10-cedi note can do for someone who lives hand-to-mouth, from day to day. Just give and do what you can, please.