Home for Corona: An Afropean View of COVID-19
As an ‘Afropean’, I see COVID-19 has brought social inequalities to the forefront; I am reminded again of the privileges and disadvantages I experience in my homes.
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My homes are both East Africa and Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic caught me in Uganda, where I am weathering a strict lockdown from the safety of my family’s home. As an ‘Afropean’, I see stark parallels in social inequality on both continents. Now, COVID-19 has brought those inequalities to the forefront and I am reminded again of the privileges and disadvantages I experience in my homes.
I debate the severity of COVID in both regions with friends and family from Europe and Africa. Initially, even though the situation in Europe worsened and Uganda was under a strict lockdown with few cases, friends in Germany worried about me remaining in Uganda, citing WHO’s predictions of COVID-19 ravaging Africa. Ironically, I worried about my friends in Europe, as cases rose and governments failed to take action. In March, my friends across East Africa agreed that we were much better off than people in Europe. Now, in June, the numbers tell a similar story: Uganda has far fewer cases than Europe (as of June 19th, 755 confirmed cases, with 492 recoveries, and no deaths) while the UK faces an immense death toll. The harsh lockdown measures largely have ensured safety from the virus; however, they have been economically devastating for many. Responses on both continents make one fact abundantly clear: Neither strict lockdowns nor voluntary social distancing measures have changed the trajectory of who will suffer most.
The origins of COVID-19 in both Europe and Africa initially made it seem to be a disease of the wealthy: Europe’s ‘ground zero’ was Ishgl ski resort in Austria. In Africa, the virus was introduced by foreign tourists and Africans who can afford to travel abroad. Perversely, now the working classes of both continents are paying the price. Poor neighbourhoods in London and Kampala tell parallel stories: widespread job loss, inability to afford basic needs, and high death rates. Communities who face disproportionate policing and institutional punishment have seen increased violence in the name of social distancing — from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in London, to underprivileged people being shot for violating lockdown rules in Kenya and Uganda.
The pandemic is a strange crisis: the havoc it wreaks impacts everyone, while each person experiences it differently. The patterns of devastation across Europe and Africa are similar: the haves spread the disease and weather the economic slowdown, while the have-nots face more destitution and illness. As a national of two countries, I have had to make my own difficult decisions. In March, while people worldwide rushed to be home with their families, I debated whether to remain in Uganda or return to my other home in Germany. In this unprecedented global crisis, none of my homes are necessarily safe. It is also personally very worrying to observe the high infection rates among Black communities in the UK, where I am doing my PhD. In the end I decided to remain in Uganda, which I know now was the right decision. The difficulty of the past couple of months was, for me, only mitigated by being with my family. Last month, for the first time in seven years, I celebrated Mother’s Day with my mother in person. Such moments of joy get me through the worst days.
 Campbell, Perraudin, Davis and Weaver (2020) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/05/uk-coronavirus-death-toll-rises-above-32000-to-highest-in-europe
 Austrian and Abuya (2020) https://theconversation.com/we-wanted-to-know-how-coronavirus-affects-nairobis-slum-residents-what-we-found-137621; Mohdin, A. (2020) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/01/covid-19-coronavirus-newham-london-uk-worst-affected-area
 Dodd, V. (2020) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/03/met-police-twice-as-likely-to-fine-black-people-over-lockdown-breaches-research; Moore, D. (2020) https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/fury-kenya-police-brutality-coronavirus-curfew-200402125719150.html; Hayden, S. (2020) https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/may/28/i-realised-my-body-was-burning-police-brutality-in-uganda-lockdown
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