April 9th 2020. How can I forget the date when I had my first encounter with COVID-19. Initially I only heard of it through the news and many fake rumors going around that there wasn’t really a pandemic, and that I was just government pulling up stunts on people.
Like any other day, I went to pick my uncle from work that day in Nairobi business area, he had earlier told me had a flu and that his temperature was a bit high. I didn’t give it much thought or that it could be the “presumed corona”. We were cruising out of town as we lived at the outskirts of Nairobi when we were stopped at a road block for check of temperature and regular police checks, that’s when it hit me that we might actually have am problem with his high temperature.
The next 10 minutes turned scarier the moment that infrared thermometer was placed adjacent to his face, we were ordered not to leave our vehicle and the place was evacuated. Two ambulances arrived with men covered white fully from head to toes, the “clothes” I later came to know were called PPE kits and they were essential in combating the deadly virus as it reduced the risk of contact and thus exposure to the disease. Back to my uncle, his temperature was found to be way above the normal and immediately COVID-19 measures were employed which involved being placed on immediate quarantine even me who had normal temperature and not showing any signs of the infection till proven otherwise by test.
Infections at that period were not that common thus they handled the first cases with the seriousness they deserved. As a positive patient my uncle was whisked away to a hospital and I was taken to a quarantine station. Life at the quarantine wasn’t that easy as we were limited to phones, visitors, and literally contact with anybody from the outside. Things turned sour in the coming days as we saw all our relatives and anybody else we had been in contact with brought for quarantine. They ran regular checks on us to check for any sign of the virus for the whole two weeks we were holed up there, the sad part which left us in awe is when we were informed that we had to pay for the services offered to us during quarantine. This came as a shock considering we were a family living off a teacher’s salary which wasn’t much, insurance immediately withdrew leaving us on our own. This was a battle God fought for us as a week later it was all paid by some NGO thanks to some activist and a media group which ran our story.
After battling the virus for two weeks, my uncle passed away, his body couldn’t fight the virus anymore. It was the hardest moment for us, we couldn’t even grieve together as a family. We had to wait for the end of the 14 days when we were finally allowed to go home after proven COVID negative and even then we were forced to social distance which was hard as we were grieving.
Then came the stigma, we were secluded in our own community even by neighbors, people were not familiar with the disease and people fear what they don’t know and understand. Getting acceptance back to the community was hard as awareness was yet to be made at local level.
Life can strip and hollow you out of peace, dignity and strength. We had stigma to deal with and a body to claim from the authorities and bury. Burials and other gatherings had been banned and nobody was allowed to handle bodies or even hold ceremonies to commemorate the late or even come near them for fear of infection, we wanted to bury our late uncle with the respects he deserved but the authorities were against even coming close to the body.
After several attempts which involved paying for a lawyer for support with the authorities, we had to settle for a 10 people disrespectful burial which we watched 10 yards from the grave. It was the worst scenario to witness, the body was wrapped with a body bag and tossed inside the grave as my family watched and wailed. It’s a situation we wish could have been done differently in regards to justice and respect for the dead which to the African communities is still upheld.
9 months down the line, we still feel the need that the situation could have been done differently. Meanwhile COVID-19 turned everything upside down, 85% of the population are unemployed, school kids have turned to abusing drugs and others recruited into militia groups and not to mention how crime rate has spiked in the past months. Walking down the streets of Nairobi, you will notice just how the number of street families has increased by a large margin. We are living in desperate times with fear of whether our lives will ever be back to normal or whether we will have to accept this as the new “norm”.
The spread and impact of the infections are believed to be exacerbated by; presence of a weak health sector, limited access to basic services such as clean water and hygiene and overpopulation in informal settlements. Government is co-operating with NGOs and international donors to control the spread of the virus while at the same time maintaining the multitudes of people with no jobs to feed their families.
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Thank you for sharing your story, Titus!
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We thank all of you for sharing how the pandemic affected lives around the world. If you have a COVID #personalstory you’d like to share, please email us at Expressions@BetterCelebrations.com.
Many blessings to you and your families.