Global Edition #2: Coronavirus News for Black Folks
Jamaica's election season ramps up amid surging cases, news studies reveal racial disparities among Canada & UK's health systems, African entrepreneurs experience tech boom and more.
Speak Patrice Presents: Coronavirus News for Black Folks is an independent newsletter that aims to empower our community by sharing coronavirus (COVID-19) news and stories as they relate to the Black Diaspora. We have 1,848 subscribers as of August 5, 2020. Please consider (1) clicking that itty bitty ❤️ at the top of this email next to my name to “like” us, (2) subscribing, and (3) supporting this newsletter by sharing it with your friends and family.
From citizens to governments, refugees to voters, the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic has placed many countries across the African diaspora in limbo and on edge, exacerbating already tense situations.
This has resulted in a series of new pandemics that present unprecedented challenges to young girls, people who are imprisoned, favela residents, and other disenfranchised groups. While the stories in today’s post explore said challenges, we’ve also included news that highlights how different communities are trying to resolve them, like the indigenous communities in the Caribbean who have returned to traditional farming and fishing roots for their livelihoods.
To kick things off, here’s this week’s cover photo, an image captured by Ethiopian photographer Yonas Tadesse from his series titled "Finding Meaning in a Pandemic.” The series has been nominated as one of Culture Lens' 48 Critics’ Choice Award Winners for 2020.
— Clydeen McDonald, contributing editor of global diaspora news
Workneh Hora, Sprayer. I am a father of two. I’ve fought in the Ethio-Eritrean war. At this time, I’m doing my national duty as a Sprayer, and Hospital Guard. I also help bury those who’ve died in the pandemic. I wasn’t scared at all when I started the job. Spraying chemicals is nothing. I’ve gone through wars with bullets. So, I am not at all afraid of death.
📍 MUST-READ STORIES
“African leaders expressed concern at more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 on the continent and greater than 26,000 fatalities, according to a statement Saturday by African Union Chairperson .”
“School closures have left girls open to sexual violence from family, neighbours and community members; lockdown poverty has forced minors into transactional sex to buy basics […] Uncertain when schools will resume, desperate families have resorted to marrying off under-age daughters to ease expenses - with some girls undergoing FGM as part of traditional customs.
Countries such as Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia are reporting spikes in teen pregnancies and early marriages, raising fears many girls may not ever return to school - and jeopardising decades of work to reverse deep-rooted gender inequalities.”
“Erlendy Cuero of AFRODES, an association of displaced Afro-Colombians, told Al Jazeera people in Llano Verde are now worried and living in fear. ‘People who have children are scared that the same thing that happened to those five could happen to theirs,’ she said. ‘There's a lot of fear because this massacre made people realize that these groups don't really care who they're killing, even if it's children.’”
“Malawi is transferring female prisoners to remote jails in a bid to slow the pandemic, but human rights groups say the move could instead spread the coronavirus and damage the women’s welfare. They say the relocation ends all family visits, leaving the women isolated and short of basics, from food to sanitary pads.
‘These transfers are unprecedented and devastating to many of the women, who are now far from their families and housed in unsanitary and congested cellblocks,’…”
“Nosakhare Omoijade is a Transport for London bus driver who has worked on full time through the crisis. A couple of his friends – colleagues on the buses – died after contracting Covid-19. He lives in fear of bringing it home to his tiny council tower block flat in East Ham.
Nosakhare, his wife Joy and their five children live in a one-bedroom home. The couple sleep in the cramped living room, while the kids – Stacey (10), Jason (7), and triplets Louise, Zoey and Zara (6) – all share a double bed.”
“‘COVID has given us an opportunity to really evaluate ourselves,’ said Uwahnie Martinez, a member of the Garifuna people, who are descended from Central American natives and shipwrecked African slaves.
‘We have been far removed from who we are and our culture, and this is the time we can actually look within and incorporate what our ancestors have left for us […] Given our livelihood of fishing and farming, we are actually reverting back to this. We are seeing more fishermen going out,’ she said. ‘We are returning to our farming roots.’”
“At least 124 private schools are facing closure because of financial constraints brought over by the pandemic. Ms. Kasanga said she was aware that the pandemic has exposed a ‘digital divide’ that’s purely based on the socioeconomic status of parents. But instead of scrapping the entire school year — a move she described as “punishing the children” for the outbreak — she said education officials should have invested in practical solutions to keep children in school, like prioritizing internet connectivity to remote areas.”
“Virtual schooling has been impossible for most in the Caribbean country where more than half the population lives on less than $3 per day and has little internet and television access.
Meanwhile, given the weakness of the Haitian state, suffering from years of unrest and mismanagement, and still struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake, four out of five schools in the Caribbean nation are private. And while fees are typically low, they have become unaffordable for many as the pandemic has worsened Haiti’s already dire economic plight.”
“Aid workers say all four Eritrean refugee camps in Ethiopia, sheltering a total of about 100,000 people, are severely overcrowded, food is in short supply, and there is poor access to water – crucial for the additional sanitation needs as a result of COVID-19.
Underlining the threat, a 16-year-old Eritrean girl in Adi Harush in June became the first refugee in the country to test positive for the coronavirus. Several other camp residents have since been diagnosed with COVID-19…”
“For the people of Malawi, the historic election re-run was a fight to restore democracy that even a pandemic disturbing as COVID-19 could not hamper. This however laid a foundation for a much tough job in a fight against the pandemic for the side that would emerge victorious from the election polls.”
Ethiopia had been scheduled to hold landmark national elections later this month. However, in March, the electoral board announced the polls would be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and a new date has not yet been set.
“With elections slated for November delayed due to COVID-19, Somalia is at a critical juncture, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council on Thursday, pressing federal and state leaders to agree on voting modalities, and bolster the capacity of forces which are meant to assume full control of national security, next year.”
“Other forms of foreign income have shrunk. Remittances in April were a tenth lower than a year before. Some call centers became centers of infection and had to close. Banana plantations are memory and sugar is in decline. Since March the Jamaican dollar has lost a tenth of its value against the American one. That has helped push up inflation. A journalist in Kingston, the capital, reports that the cost of his lunch has jumped from J$350 at the beginning of the year to J$450 ($3).”
“The authorities said that psychosocial support and empowerment sessions will be provided for students, teachers, and parents and printed learning kits will be distributed to students. Educational support programs will also be extended and new partnerships will be forged to support distance/remote learning.”
“Caribbean governments are currently rolling out CARDI's plan to increase domestic food production by distributing planting material to small-scale farmers. With the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resource, for instance, CARDI recently distributed hundreds of cassava slips to small farmers across the Bahamian state.”
“It is observed that since the announcement of the date of election, there have been a number of motorcades, rallies, and general jollification across the island and with reckless abandon of all COVID-19 protocols in both political camps, thereby facilitating the continued exponential increase in the rate of infection. This is undeniably to the detriment to the health of all of us…”
RELATED: Pandemic Threatens Diaspora Votes
“…in the UN General Assembly, no formal electronic voting system has been established because some members still resist it. Consequently, resolutions can only pass by consensus of all member states. Since such consensus cannot be negotiated, only minimal compromises are made. That, too, suits the few giant nations, long intolerant of the many dwarf countries.
All of this makes the world a less safe place. It provides the opportunity for powerful countries, which have the capacity for non-commercial travel, to make arrangements with other countries, outside of the multilateral system. Invariably, these arrangements serve the interests of the more powerful government.”
“When the mandatory mask-wearing order was announced, this topic came to me very quickly. What about the deaf — those who in Haiti are unfortunately called ”bèbè?” They were already considered outcasts and were going to be even more affected by the pandemic's consequences. Soon I discovered that wearing a mask would contribute further to deaf people's precarious living conditions in the country because they are not suited for their daily needs.”
“It’s been a tough time for Caribbean destinations that reopened their borders to international visitors, as government and tourism officials have struggled to contend with the unprecedented challenge posed by COVID-19.”
“The Ontario government refused to collect race-based data earlier in the pandemic but was forced to change course in June. Now it mandates the collection of data around race, income, household size, and language when following up with people who've been infected with COVID-19 …
Early data compiled by Toronto Public Health showed that 83 per cent of COVID-19 cases occurred in racialized people. Black people represented 21 per cent of cases in Toronto, but only nine per cent of the city's population. ”
“Montreal entrepreneur Thierry Lindor launched a new online platform, dubbed Colors of Covid, Wednesday, hoping to demonstrate how Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people of colour, have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Quebec and across Canada …
Lindor himself lost several loved ones to COVID-19 early on in the pandemic. He feels that others could be spared that same suffering if the Quebec and Canadian governments had a better understanding of the statistics and could target resources to certain neighbourhoods and communities.
“They say COVID-19 information in multiple languages and affordable, safe child care are just some of the elements that would better prepare these communities for the pandemic as it moves into the colder months.”
“Systemic racism is difficult to account for in scientific studies but there is lots of evidence that it plays a role in health. The long-awaited review from Public Health England said that racism and discrimination experienced by BAME communities is a ‘root cause affecting health,’ and that ‘for many BAME groups, lack of trust of NHS services and healthcare treatment resulted in their reluctance to seek care on a timely basis, and late presentation with the disease,’ which could increase the risk of severe outcomes.”
“There are facts in the story of Belly – and there is a version of events that is disputed. Then there is the symbol that Belly has become to so many people – people who never met her or heard the sound of her voice, but who know her name and the story of what happened to her in those fear-filled days at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Britain.”
“A task force has found that the disproportionate number of COVID deaths in Black and ethnic minority communities in the West Midlands were avoidable, after hearing months of ‘harrowing and distressing’ evidence from families affected.
‘We heard about families holding back from seeking help because they were worried about the care they would receive. We heard about BAME workers on the frontline having to make their own personal protective equipment, or having to ‘pull strings’ to visit dying loved ones – and now a significant risk of ongoing trauma and mental health issues, because so many have lost loved ones, without the normal traditions of being able to say goodbye.’”
“The disproportionate impact of coronavirus on Black and minority ethnic businesses in the South West has been highlighted by a report. The pandemic and social-distancing regulations have brought to light pre-existing socio-economic inequality within the region, according to the report by the Black South West Network (BSWN).”
“‘Confinada’ critiques the disproportionate toll the coronavirus has taken on poor and Black Brazilians—on top of ongoing systemic inequality in the country.”
“On March 5, the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Almost five months later, the real impact of the illness on the metropolitan region’s favelas is still unknown, and hundreds of thousands of residents are not receiving the necessary attention from public authorities.”
“For the first time in 53 years, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, previously known as Caribana, couldn't be its usual vibrant, multi-day festival self. But the community found ways to keep the celebrations going.”
“South Africa's government has warned that the coronavirus crisis could cost the jobs of 400,000 workers - and that is just in the tourism industry. Five months of lockdown restrictions are being eased but the tourism industry could take years to recover.”
“Coronavirus has brought new opportunities to Africa's tech sector, despite the devastating blow it has delivered to economies around the world.”
“Many insurers are rejecting companies' COVID-19 claims with some companies left short or with nothing.”