Before the discovery of the first case in my country, I followed the news on the pandemic’s global development only absentmindedly. I told myself that in a remote country like Niger, we could be off the hook. Although I was sympathetic to the plight of others, I prayed that my country would not be affected.
I planned the following weeks with great enthousiasm and I filled my agenda with activities, which mostly consist of activities related to our association of young girls in medecine. We had programmed an outing for trisomic kids and everything was taken care off. But then one week before the outing it became legally forbidden to gather in groups of more than 50 persons in public spaces; especially the national musem, which was the place we had picked to go to for the outing, closed too.
It used to be my habit to leave the house early and get back around 20h in the evening, always running between various activities, such as meet-ups, training, seminars… I was never bored, always had something to do. It was exhausting, but I felt useful to my community.
Days that I would not go out were rare, because if I am not doing one of these activities, I can be found in the hospital for my collection of limb amputations (these amputations are rare, as I have only had 3 before the pandemic). I do this while waiting for the start of my thesis; since I chose a so-called ‘prospective study’1, I can start now without being in a thesis-year (I am in the 6th year, and one needs to wait till the 8th year to do the thesis and support the ‘retrospective’ studies, but for the ‘prospectives’ like me, one can start fom the 5th year).
After the first case of COVID-19, another case was diagnosed post-mortem and the student-interns were all sent to see them. The ones that were in contact with the disease have been placed in quarantaine. Access to the hospital is restricted to patients and personnel, which means I cannot continue with my collection for my thesis anymore. I can also no longer go to my meet-ups, other than via whatsapp.
Because I cannot go out anymore, I make others aware of the virus through my accounts on social media, especially via my facebook account. I do this because some of the people from Niger do not believe the virus exists. Although there have been 943 cases confirmed, 775 people cured and 61 people deceased, some people do not comprehend the situation, especially those who reject the measures taken by the authorities such as the closure of mosques, while the markets and all the establishments are open. This leads to riots within the country as well as in the capital city of Niamey, where collective prayers are dispersed by tear-gas.2 Only the places of worship and my school and university have closed.
Some young people distribute handwashing kits to those who subscribe for it, whereas others educate poor households who do not have access to social media and information by going door-to-door. Everybody tries to help according to their own ability. The opinions and methods diverge, but I believe that deep down, our common interest is the well-being for all.
1 In medecine, a ‘prospective’ study means you observe a group of subjects as they evolve over time (such as the amputation of limbs with patients); other than in ‘retrospective’ studies, where you study what happened in the past.
2 NewStraitsTimes (Apr 20, 2020), “Riots erupt in Niger capital over Covid-19 curfew”, from: https://africa.la-croix.com/riots-in-niger-over-coronavirus-ban-on-congregational-prayer/
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