The coronavirus pandemic has kept us in a state of lockdown for over two months. This has had a huge impact on every aspect of our lives – from being confined indoors to schools, offices and marketplaces being shut. It has been a challenging time physically and psychologically.
In a society that thrives on shared experiences, festivities and togetherness, such as ours, the lockdown has not been easy to observe, and has instead caused many additional illnesses. Children have especially had difficulties coping with a sense of insecurity, staying away from friends, not being able to play outdoors and in many cases, being vulnerable to violence, abuse, hunger and sickness.
Safe Hygiene practices will protect your loved ones
The global coronavirus pandemic has impacted our daily habits. Social distancing is now a buzzword around the world, as is the importance of regularly washing hands with soap, and the practicing respiratory hygiene. As someone whose work focuses on the improvement of health and hygiene in the community, I appreciate the widespread adoption of better hand washing and hygiene habits.
Guidelines by the World Health Organisation clearly state the role played by hand washing with soap, cleaning hands with sanitizer, maintaining social distancing norms, and wearing masks to protect us from contracting the disease.
While infections continue to rise every day, it is a fact that these healthy practices have prevented an even faster spread of the coronavirus. And these safe, hygienic practices are good to be adopted in the long run.
UNICEF in Jharkhand has also been building capacities of organisations, NGOs, school principals, civil society organisations and universities such as the Central University of Jharkhand, by educating them about safe and hygienic behaviours, and the impact of COVID-19 on children.
We have been spreading mass awareness among different stakeholders and bringing them together to sensitize them about children’s issues during this pandemic. To further spread this message, we also supported the ‘Chuppi Todo, Swasth Raho Abhiyaan’, a government campaign on menstrual hygiene, through capacity-building sessions for district coordinators.
Do Your Bit Responsibly
With Unlock 1.0, we see that restrictions have eased, and a number of activities have been allowed with adequate precautions, such as offices allowing only a restricted number of employees to come to work, at a given time; travel via rail and air is now being undertaken; while some restaurants, malls and shops have been allowed to open too.
But we need to remember that easing of restrictions does not mean the pandemic has ended, or that we should not practice safe hygiene habits or take adequate precautions.
COVID-19 is still a threat, and until a cure or vaccine is developed, it is important to flatten the curve so that our healthcare personnel are not overwhelmed as they work round the clock to treat those who are infected.
Therefore, I must stress again that we must continue following the precautions we have observed from the beginning. We must avoid public places unless absolutely necessary. We must restrict our movement for groceries, and buy for a longer duration.
Visits to markets must be planned in a manner where crowding can be avoided by maintaining a distance of six feet with others. We must continue to wear face masks, and if we resume working out of our offices, we must ensure that appropriate distances are maintained, and Government guidelines are followed.
Practices like spitting in public must be discouraged. If everyone follows the guidelines, we can tackle this pandemic and reduce the burden on our healthcare workers, the police, as well as government authorities.
Break The Stigma
Another important thing I want to address is social stigma. A crisis such as this breeds fear, anxiety and negativity. Often, these feelings manifest in the form of discrimination and disrespect against people of certain communities, geographies, migrant workers, and even health workers, essential-serviced providers, and volunteers who are society’s true heroes at this time.
We must remember that COVID-19 does not differentiate between those it affects. Discrimination and violence are unacceptable on grounds of identity, and especially against health workers who risk their lives to keep us safe.
It is critical that we are supportive and protective of the people who are infected, and of the migrants who have journeyed long in this harsh summer to find the safety of home. Even more so, let us respect and support the doctors, nurses, ANMs, ASHAs, sanitation workers as well as social volunteers who are treating, feeding and helping people while putting themselves at risk. When we protect ourselves, we make their jobs easier.
These past weeks have taught us to live a completely different life with a new set of challenges. Let us stay safe so that we can all emerge safe on the other side.
The author is the Chief of UNICEF Jharkhand Field Office
Edited by Aparajita Saxena
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)