“Uhunga ikikwiruka inyuma ariko nduhunga ikikwirukamo.”
This is a common saying in Kinyamulenge, which means, “It is easily to run away from something that is chasing you from behind, but hard to fight against something inside yourself.”
The world is currently grappling with the havoc caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Government leaders, international health organizations, and scientists are working around the clock to try and develop an effective vaccine, slow the spread of the virus, and protect communities. On March 12, Maine confirmed its first COVID -19 case, making it the 43rd state with a positive case. Governor Janet Mills swiftly announced emergency insurance measures to help all Mainers access health care related to the virus, and offered recommendations designed to flatten the curve, and give the health care system a chance to prepare for Covid-19 patients. The director of the Maine CDC, Dr. Nirav Shah, has been providing daily updates to help the state respond to the developing crisis. On March 17, the count of cases had risen to 32, with three hospitalizations.
Amjambo Africa has created a special Covid-19 button that will be live on its website Wednesday, March 18 and will direct visitors to information in French, Swahili, Portuguese, Somali, and Kinyarwanda. Some of the information is in the form of videos from well-known community members, other information is in written form or in info-grams. We urge you to visit our site and share widely with your networks. Our information is based on updates from the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and local community leaders.
Immigrant leaders are working hard to help support community members and keep everyone informed about how to protect the health and safety of their families as well as the community at large. They have been holding virtual meetings with the CDC and with each other since the outbreak began. Materials about symptoms, measures to take to avoid spreading germs, and what to do if a case is suspected have been developed and translated into many different languages to make information accessible for everyone. Community groups are creating videoclips in multiple languages and sharing them with us, as well as sending them through WhatsApp, Facebook, and other platforms in order to reach those who do not follow mainstream media.
Culture, faith, and previous experience all play a significant role in the way that each different person and community addresses dangerous times. Most immigrants who have arrived recently here in Maine have escaped horrors back home. At first glance, Covid-19 may not have alarmed them as quickly as it scared other Americans who have been spared war and prior mass epidemics like Ebola, malaria, and TB. As a result, some immigrants were shocked to find that all hand sanitizing and cleaning products were gone from the stores in short order after the news of a pandemic started circulating in Maine.
The spread of Covid-19 is a reminder that we now live in a deeply interconnected global village – what happens somewhere far from us can easily and quickly reach us and have a significant impact on our lives. And as in village life, we need to care for one another and share resources. Like low-income Mainers, many immigrants live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to buy and stockpile food and other necessities for weeks. They worry that not everyone will have an equal chance to get through this crisis. So please don’t buy so much of any one necessity like toilet paper that others cannot find any at all. Be a good neighbor and share with others.
Amjambo Africa sends hope that all of our communities – foreign-born and local-born alike – will heed the advice of experts and stay home as much as possible, wash hands aggressively and frequently, cover coughs and sneezes, and look out for one another. Together we can slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, thereby giving medical centers a chance to keep up with helping those who fall sick, and we can help those less fortunate than ourselves.
In trust that peace of mind and stability will be established in our fine state community once more before too long, we wish our friends the best.
Georges Budagu Makoko, Amjambo Africa Publisher
Kathreen Harrison, Amjambo Africa Editor in Chief