Here is your Roving Public Interest Lawyer and this is my diary.
My roving and distancing eyes have been glued to the subject matter of COVID-19 for a while now. My interest has been the Social Protection angles of the entire medical brouhaha and the impact of same on our precious children.
Last week, I began a series, COVID-19: This Uprising will Bring out the BEAUTY and the BEAST in us. It is still in the spirit of that series that I bring you the BEAUTY and the BEAST of SOCIAL DISTANCING.
When the COVID-19 pandemic is over and laid to rest, I think one of the things that will be written as its epitaph may be ‘Defeated by SOCIAL DISTANCING.’
So I think there is BEAUTY in distance, social or otherwise. I guess that is why the book I read says, ‘seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house; otherwise, he’ll get sick of you and hate you.’
I think the challenge I have today as I rove with my memory and my eyes is that the majority of our people are only concerned with the BEAUTY of Social Distancing that we pay no attention to the BEAST in her, particularly for a Third World like ours.
The major challenge I have seen in my Social Development Advocacy work is that the world(developed climes) hardly considers Africa when arriving at political, social or economic solutions to global challenges. I think the world expect us to figure things out and apply according to our perculiarities as a people.
Africa and her leaders, often weighhed down by chronic hypocrisy and seemingly incurable inferiority complex do not take a careful look at solutions hauled at them from those who have positioned themselves as the masters of the universe. We hardly ponder on or consider the perculiarities and applicability of solutions suggested from developed climes before we embrace same with oracular dedication and commitment and stake our whole life on it.
In the weeks preceding the COVID-19 season, I visited two densely populated areas in Lagos State, Ajegunle and Makoko, while establishing our S.A.F.E™VILLE Children’s Parliament.
Majority of the people in this areas live in houses that are best described as civilian barracks. A family of 5 or 6 live in one room in 8-12 room apartment, known as face-me-face you. They share common toilets, bathrooms, kitchen and the likes. There are many of these people who still practice open defecation in bushes and waters. They share food and spaces with dangerous rodents and poisonous pests. They practice nothing like Water, Sanitation and Hygiene as they do not even have access to clean and regular water supply.
Some people even live on refuse dumps and Internally Displaced People’s Camps.They are constant bearers and victims of health hazards.They are often at the peril of hunger. I submit that these people’s lives are already on a social lockdown as they live isolated from their basic needs being met. Their living condition is nothing but fermented fuel for a health epidemic and pandemic.
It is my conclusion that the existence of these people are already almost irredeemably abused and betrayed by the Nigerian state. So when the existence of a people are abused, they are bound to abuse their precious children.
The people I described above and their abandoned state represent the microcosm of the the environment in which a huge population of Nigerians live. I think there are 86.9 million of them, who live in extreme poverty, according to the World Poverty Clock.
Here is the question: how do people like like these practice Social Distancing as a major strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19?
Vedika Sud, CNN Film Producer reported on the lockdown in India. She reported that 74 Million people live in densely populated areas in India. 5-10 people live in a small room with no access to water and toilet within their homes. There are like 150 people to 1 toilet on a given day. One sixth of the population live in the country’s slum area.
In view of this analysis, Vedika Sud concluded her report on CNN on a very sobering note, ‘Social or Physical Distancing is not the solution for the Indian poor.’
I think I agree with her and I say Social or Physical Distancing is not the solution for the Nigerian poor.’
This is what we all need to think about and we unfortunately do no have the luxury of time: how do we curb the spread of COVID-19 and related pandemic in densely populated areas where Social Distancing strategy is nothing but a practice dead on arrival.
I earnestly invite you to this debate before it is too late in our best interest. If we think we are safe in our rich estates, I hope we have noticed that in the neighborhood of almost every rich estate in Lagos State is a densely populated area. For every Magodo, there Ketu, for every Gbagada, there is a Bariga, for every Apapa, there is Ajegunle, for every GRA, Ikeja, there is Oshodi. The list is endless. It goes without saying that ‘your chicken is not safe when your neighbor is hungry.’
Do have an INSPIRED weekend.
Here is your Dearly Beloved Roving Public Lawyer, Taiwo AKINLAMI
(C) 2019 Taiwo AKINLAMI