COVID-19 Stories
The impact of COVID-19 on citizens
EG Justice

It is regrettable and shocking to observe how day after day the difficulties for citizens to access basic needs increase -who already were living poorly. The state is not offering any viable plan that improves the lives of the citizens who need it.

Last week the government announced triumphantly the release of eighty-five million CFA to be distributed among all the legalized political parties in the country, (according to them there are 17 political parties). According to the announcement, the money is to be used by the parties to help their members and the economically affected population during the time we have been in quarantine.

This type of policy, on top of being a clear sign of ineptitude and ineffectiveness of the government, causes pain and outrage in most of the population and makes it clear that neither before nor much less now does the government think about the suffering of the people. It would not be surprising that within the ruling party, PDGE the 85,000,000 CFA ($147,000) donation would be seen as a "generous measure promoted by the Founding President, -who according to them- puts the well-being of the citizenry above any other interest". If this statement was true, it would be reasonable for the government to adopt an aid plan for all citizens of the country so that they can comprehensively face the economic hardship arising from the pandemic.

However, there is nothing further from reality, the government is more interested in advertising than solving the real needs of the people. They have never assumed the obligation to improve the lives of the citizens, even less now with the ongoing health crisis.

What people need to know, if was are OK with the chosen way that aid reaches the country, how much money do they foresee would correspond to each person? Taking into account that each party received five million CFA, for two months that, for example, merchants have been unable to open their businesses. Or workers who were furloughed, or businesses that have gone under due to the slowdown of the economy. How much could each person receive from this 85 million CFA?

Another question that concerns most of the population; is this the best way to manage this crisis?  What happens to those who do not belong to any party? or what happens with foreigners residing in EG, who are forbidden from belonging to a political party, but who are also affected by Covid-19?

The plan of the ruling party, and any of the other 16 parties, of using the money to buy "food" and distribute it to the population, is an absurdity and a joke for the people. It will mean "food for today and hunger for tomorrow", a citizen confided to me. He further added that distribution of food will be probably follow the same process as when is done during the electoral campaign, when hardly each person gets some dried fish, at most two and a cup of rice, which is insignificant.

A lady told me how she hustles to survive the crisis with six children, one of them who has been in prison for almost two years without trial, and her four grandchildren. Her usual source of income is the sale of clothing and shoes in street markets, one of the sectors severely affected by the health crisis, but she has been unable to sell her merchandise for more than two months. Therefore, she has no income to get the basics to her family. She has even resorted to the plan that the government has misleadingly called "Food Bank" where the needy sign up on a list stating the number of children or relatives in charge. She signed up a month ago and so far has not received any calls. Every time she goes to ask the status of her request, the response is that she will be called when it is her turn.

And as if all this was not enough, it is up to this lady to send from time to time canned food to her son in prison, who she is prohibited from visiting to avoid prisoners getting infected of the Covid-19. However, prisoners have multiple health and food problems, which must be solved by their relatives whom they have not seen for several months and can only communicate through the few prisoners, who obtain permits to go out to the city a couple of hours a day or a benevolent prison guard who lets them make a call with his phone. It was precisely in one of these calls, that her son told her that the prison administrator asked for three hundred thousand CFA ($520) if he wanted to be on the list that of prisoners to be released very soon to avoid the spread of Covid-19 due to the high number of inmates. The question she asked herself is: Can a woman who struggles to feed her family every day since the start of the quarantine pay such an amount of money, even if she would really like to see her son released? The answer, sadly, is no.

Another lady had spent the whole morning looking for one of her children's teachers to submit her kids’ homework that were supposed to be submitted via Whatsapp, but was unable to send due to the lack of internet credit. Another evident irresponsible measure of this government who does not put in place measures based on the country’s context and according to the standard of living of most of the population. The government just copy and paste what is being done in other parts of the world.

Another woman told me how scared she has become of hospitals, so instead she gives her kids ekuk, nfoho, lemon, ndjinja, noni for her kids to avoid having to take them to the hospital.

All of these stories and many more are clear and evident signs that the government does not think about the population when adopting policies.