By: Shafiq Taibjee Lawyer/Arbitrator/Mediator, Honorary Fellow (International Islamic Centre for Reconciliation & Arbitration.(UAE)
The Corona virus or Covid 19 as itâ€™s known brings a lot of challenges and how each one of us are dealing with the situation. The sudden travel restrictions and curfews have its unique challenges which has taken a lot of people by surprise.
Many people have not been able to cope due to various reasons and some of these include:
- Not able to comprehend the current situation and understanding the government directives.
- Poverty plays a crucial role in being able to cope with adequate preparation or lack off.
- Information, understanding and guidance by various authorities and how to stay safe.
- Effects of alcohol, drugs and other substances.
- Civil responsibility and putting safety measures in a community.
- Misinformation, conspiracy theories, false medications and information overload on treatments.
- Confinement within the house:- dealing with divorced parents , parental visitation rights, safety of children, maintenance, use of technology etc
It is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety of its population and it does that by:
- Planning and Coordination with Various Government Agencies ( Provide leadership, disseminate information, monitor the pandemic and its spread, risk assessment etc)
- Monitoring and Assessment (In Kenya we have daily reporting by the CS and his Team)
- Reducing The Spread of Disease (Quarantine, Containment, Curfew and Lockdown and will depend significantly upon increasing the â€œsocial distanceâ€ between people. Measures such as individual/household level measures, societal-level measures and international travel measures, and the use of antivirals, other pharmaceuticals, and vaccines will be important )
- Continuity of Health Care Provision (Mass Testing, Hospitals etc)
- Communications. This is to allow communication between key partners to allow them to make well informed decisions and take appropriate actions to protect health and safety and response and is a fundamental part of effective risk management.
In Kenya where there is a large population that lives in abject poverty and where a large population is unemployed telling them to stay home and stock up is a recipe for chaos. A large population lives on daily wages and stopping them going to work is a dangerous situation. Therefore keeping that in mind a curfew was introduced from 7pm to 5am to allow people to work during these day hours. This is a disease (Covid 19) that does not discriminate between wealthy, poor, tribe and anything else in the mix. All are vulnerable. When risk and uncertainty affects the wealthy, the welfare of vulnerable people may be neglected.Â Therefore the stay at home and stocking up though well intentioned may have very less impact on the ground reality. The most vulnerable people have no insurance, no paid leave, suffer malnutrition and the daily struggle to stay alive despite battling with other existing diseases like pneumonia, malaria etc.
Considering the education level of the mass public and the availability of televisions, radio and internet is a luxury to most the level of information available is by way of mouth and often distorted and full of misinformation which leads to the general confusion of the control, safety, and medication of the vast majority.
People during a pandemic are forced to say home and that being the whole purpose to control the spread. However, being idle means people tend to gravitate toward passing the confinement time by increasing the consumption of alcohol and other such substances. In the USAÂ off-premise alcohol sales were up 55% in the third week of March this year 2020 compared to last year, according to data reported by Nielsen, an international measurement and data analytics company. We do not have the exact data for Kenya but the statistics cannot be far behind. Drinking more alcohol than the recommended limit predisposes people to infection in part by depressing the immune system, which â€œmakes it more difficult to fight infections. In many countries including Kenya domestic violence, child abuse and so on have been on the rise and one of the reasons being consumption of excessive alcohol.
The values of any country depends largely on the civic responsibility that the individual citizens take upon themselves and this largely determines a lot of things especially in a crisis situation. The issue social distancing, charity to the underprivileged, doctors and essential service workers who are working behind the scene are all part of the crucial fabric that will help us all survive the pandemic. Each one of us is responsible to avoid unnecessary trips and avoid contact with others to stop the spread of the disease. Wearing protective masks, gloves, sanitizers etc. At times we need to also support smaller essential Â business like neighborhood take away restaurants, kiosks etc so that we help in our own individual way.
In these days of information technology there is a myriad of social media platforms where information is available and is doing rounds of various theories and conspiracies on where the virus started, the 5G effect on our health, various medications and home remedies that have cured people of Covid19. There is literally information overload on what one can do, should do, and not do and its mind boggling not to mention very confusing. An everyday flu suddenly becomes symptoms of Covid 19 and there is the stigma to deal with it.Â In many people this has led to depression.
This depression and further to the house confinement has led to more complications and the crucial effects on the society. This is going to be testing time for the family fabric and other very serious issues. For example you could have a divorced couple who have shared the responsibility of their raising their children and the time each ex-spouse will spend with the children. This wonâ€™t be possible due to travel restrictions. There can be issues of money transfer in cases of alimony, say thereâ€™s a complete lockdown that prevents the children moving between homes and one parent is left with all the costs and pressure of looking after the children.[usually the father] loses his job and has no income to pay. What do you do? Â The cases not limited to these examples only. The staying together of families has led to a lot of physical abuse and in one case in Iran where the wife has actually died from the wounds suffered due to domestic violence. In Kenya too there are several cases of both spouse and child abuse and physical violence. Mostly the press reports cases of violence on women by men but from my experience as a mediator there are equal amount of cases where men and boys have suffered.
The challenge for mediators is going to be many fold in that there will be a need for psychological therapy as well as an emotional intelligence of how to deal with many a times traumatic situations.Â Each family deals with a given situation differently and has to be dealt with differently. Many people have opposite views on religions, money, education house chores etc. This is the advantage of mediation where a trained professional will be able to assess the situation and deal with issues professionally.
Can some of the issues mentioned above be dealt with various conferencing facilities available? Facilities such as Zoom, Skype and many others. This is the million dollar question and exactly how effective will such mediations really be?