With the number of domestic violence cases rising to alarming rates and anxiety attacks becoming the norm, what has COVID-19 taught us about ourselves, so far?
By Alex Gwaze, Social Documentarian
#StaySafe #StayAtHome #HomeSafeHome #EndGBV #StopDomesticViolence #Covid19 #WASH #HomeSafeHome #Sanitize #CoronaVirus
Well, for one, we do not understand the concept of a “home”. As the hours turn into days and the days into weeks, we “cannot wait to get out of the house”. In this digital age our homes are nothing more than a bed, a fridge and a wardrobe; we have placed more value on people, places and things – in other words our homes are not conducive for our careers, diets and entertainment needs. They are “too real” and require real work to live in. This is why, despite the evidence of a pandemic, there is a large group of people that keep asking –
Why do we have to stay at home?
Numbers don’t lie so let’s start there. With 1,920,918+ confirmed cases and 119 686+ deaths worldwide; the verdict is in, COVID-19 is contagious. Closer to home, Africa currently has 10 258+ cases and rising; with South Africa (1 749+), Algeria (1 468+), Egypt (1 322+), Morocco (1 184+) and Cameroon (685+) reporting the most cases. There are 518+ deaths in Africa, the five countries that have recorded the most deaths are Algeria (194+), Morocco (90+), Egypt (85+), Tunisia (22+) and Burkina Faso (19+). Those are the statistics that reveal that COVID-19 can kill and spreads like wildfire, so for the sake of our health and well being, it’s good to stay at home where you can be safe.
But how do I know I will be safe at home, what if I or someone at home already has it?
The Corona virus currently has no cure and it is spread primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. In addition, it also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth – therefore wearing a medical mask and staying at home reduces your risk of coming into contact with infected surfaces or people. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, aches and a dry cough, however these symptoms can take 2 to 14 days to develop, with some people being asymptomatic – so staying at home reduces the chances of those in self-isolation from spreading the disease.
What if I have to leave the house for food, supplies, medication or an emergency?
There is a new thing that people have to learn called social distancing. Social distancing is a set of non-pharmaceutical measures taken to prevent the spread of contagious diseases by maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet or 2 meters between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other. It is simply about putting some distance between people, places and things that are or might be infected with COVID-19. Ironically, we’ve reached a point in history where human intervention is not required and all you have to do to save mankind is, well – nothing. However, if you do feel the need to “do something” then you can raise awareness about the “forgotten victims” of the lockdowns.
Who are the forgotten victims?
Home is proving to be a “prison” of sorts for some people, even though it’s sheltering them from the outbreak; however, for many, finding peace at home is an everyday struggle. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns, there has been a surge of domestic violence incidents due to heightened domestic tensions and cut off escape routes. “In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled, healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed, and local support groups are paralysed or short of funds”, says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Staying at home is essential to suppress COVID-19 but the home is morphing into a trap for violent people to repeatedly abuse their partners.
Thus, in order to create a refuge and “safe home” for everyone during lockdowns we need to:
❖ Ensure that the channels of communication with the authorities are kept open, especially mobile phone facilities (apps, email, social media),
❖ And, governments and stakeholders need to raise funds for safe houses or provide safe houses that potential victims can go to,
❖ Furthermore, women should be encouraged to report abuses at facilities that are still open like pharmacies, takeaways and supermarkets.
❖ Also, we need to communicate with friends and family members who we suspect are in an abusive relationship to check on them, support them and offer helpful information.
❖ In addition, we need to be neighbourly and intervene in any incident of domestic violence when we can safely do so, before the situation turns fatal.
When one is isolated from their family and friends with an abusive partner, being in a lockdown is truly a quest for survival that even those stuck at home with their loved ones can relate to. “Cabin fever” or the feeling of being trapped in a “prison” cut off from civilisation is now a common problem that is often accompanied by claustrophobia, restlessness, sleeplessness, fear, anxiety and irritability. So, respecting personal space in these times is paramount – social distancing can also be applied at home. However, our homes are not cages so maintain some form of civility and communicate with each other. The critical thing is to be open, resourceful and considerate – do not attack, criticise or evoke any anger, disappointment, or unrealistic expectations on each other. If you have children or are accustomed to a crammed schedule or demanding occupation, then try to establish a routine to provide some rhythm and order to the “slack life” you have been forced to acclimatize to – here are some activities you can add to your routine:
#Binge on homegrown content online, podcasts or other streaming sites; catch up on overdue assignments, bills, taxes, conversations and hobbies; cook, try new recipes or change where you eat; create customised “mood” playlists; free up storage on your phone, laptop, hard drives; exercise or walk around your home or street; play some games (board, card, mental, video etc); garden; hold indoor photo-shoots; make some new friends online; meditate; read or write a book; rest (allow yourself some time off from whatever you were doing before the lockdown); start a blog, business, journal, vlog etc; spring clean your entire house and wardrobe; video call friends, family and significant others; take some online courses; try on outfits you rarely wear; work from home – and be creative, don’t be afraid to introduce something new to your routine daily.
Even after adopting some of these activities into your routine, adjusting to the “slack life” may still be a struggle for some, but we must remember that staying at home is all about survival and saving lives, so it’s important to practice good hygiene. Safely managed water, sanitation, and hygiene (#WASH) services are an essential part of preventing and protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks, so wear your masks and wash your hands regularly with soap or an alcohol based sanitizer – especially after visiting areas where people gather like schools, workplaces, markets, and transport stations even after the lockdown – #SAFETYFIRST. This is what COVID-19 has taught us about ourselves, so far. We are not safe! The one space where we should feel the most secure and comfortable – #HOMESAFEHOME- has been neglected due to the allure of other people, places and things and we are struggling to survive in our homes for merely 30 days – imagine a lifetime. The rise in domestic violence cases worldwide since the lockdowns has exposed the reality of our modern homes, they are no longer safe social spaces –
we need to take care of our “real homes” now and after the end of the pandemic.
Sources, References and Further Reading:
Map: James Wan (African Arguements)
Graph: Musasa Project Zimbabwe