KAMPALA — In one of the press conferences, the Director General of-World health Organisation (WHO) said “we are not just fighting a pandemic. We are fighting an info-demic”.
Shortly after, a campaign dubbed “stop the spread” was launched, intended to minimize the spread of incorrect and false information. Digital and new media users have contributed to mal information and dis-information, two different, but similar words, all contributing to the infodemic.
If you have not filtered and deleted non-essential whatsapp groups from your phone, you will most likely fall victim from unverified and quite depressing information.
A few days ago thus, one of the dailies run a screamer that indicated that Uganda had lost the COVID fight. A screen shot of the paper was sent to me by a Kenyan friend who has worked and lived in Italy for 16 years, after a posting from Portugal where he worked for 5 years. After more than 20 years- years he calls ‘odd’ because he was away from home, he made up his mind to return home-to a land he calls ‘glory Africa’. I met him when I was still at the Uganda Media centre when he had come to seek clearance on attending a meeting with LRA leader-during the botched peace talks.
He was furious that back in Italy, some of the press highlighted Jospeh Kony as a savior, and the government-as a perpetrator. It infuriated him that the press was seemingly against “glory Africa” in promoting war-mongers. Come COVID in Italy, the US, Brazil and other places where people were dying in their thousands every day, he would send screen shots of the press highlighting these deaths, yet, trying so hard to keep hope alive.
“Pam”, he would say, even with over 2300 coffins lying on the street awaiting decent burial, “we are keeping hope alive”.
Imagine then, his anger at this daily newspaper that run a screamer “How Uganda lost the COVID fight”. He called-his rage shooting through the phone asking why our own people are against “Glory Africa”.
His anger wasn’t in vain, it was not misplaced and he was not alone in feeling this way.
At the time of this publication, Uganda-with a population of over 45 million had vaccinated over 834,271 people, and was rolling out a new community vaccine plan, had 74,260 cumulative cases, over 1200 active cases on admission and 752 deaths. Don’t get me wrong. Every death is a sad statistic of a friend, loved one, a parent, someone we know, and someone we are close to. On a personal note, a man we grew up calling Uncle-because he was godfather to my brother passed on 5 months after the death of his wife, and only 10 days later, his beautiful daughter passed on, leaving a week old baby, who came into the world by emergency C-section from her dying mother.
We have lost three close friends-one-Robert Kirabira very special and dear to us, two aunties, neighbors, former workmates and almost every day, we wake up to death of someone we know. It has taken its Unbearable toll and I feel every inch of all our pain as a county! The numbers of the departed will sadly increase, as will-and lets not forget this- the number of recoveries. It is tempting to keep a grim heart in this hurting world by looking at the deaths only, which we are all almost guilty of. It is very easy to shut down mentally and wish things were better. They will!
In this fight, folks, we have not lost the fight against COVID! Haven’t we slowly heeded recovered from the guard we had so let down? See, in my area, in the outskirts of Kampala City, our little vibrant village has put in place self-policing measures; wearing a mask, washing hands and watching out for any “law breakers”.
That’s their small way of fighting. Every day, thousands of health workers fight to keep people alive, working long hours to restore our land to total healing. To suggest that we have lost the fight is to mock the drops of sweat beneath the layers of thick PPE they wear, it is to mock the contribution of the doctors and nurses, some going days without sleep to save a soul-or two.
That same article goes on to vilify the government pointing at what the termed as a lowering of guard amidst wanton disregard for the enforcement of SOPs. Incidentally, the same paper says enforcement of SoPs by security is an abuse of rights. Fair enough, but government alone can never win this fight. I carry the hope of the millions of Ugandans that believe that we shall overcome this pandemic.
If there was any lesson that we learnt at the height of the pandemic that ravaged Italy and other established nations whose bed capacities and health systems are world class, countries whose GDPS are the envy of the world, was that a nation must pull together in the hard times and work towards ending the pandemic. Anything diversionary should be frowned upon and regarded with utmost ridicule.
Even when we have not fully vaccinated our population as established economies hoard theirs, even when we have so much going against us as an African race, the only choice is to win this fight through experience, tested leadership and a submissive population to voices of scientific reason, not proponents of mal-information, disinformation and fake news. We shall overcome if all of us in our small ways keep vigilant and observe the SOPs. We will hold on to the unchanging hand of God, and in His time, our land will be fully restored. Together, we will win this fight. Keep safe and keep hope alive!
The writer is team leader at APT Communications