Covid – 19 stigma affects frontline workers and Diasporians.

Image Source: afro.who.int

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit Ghana, it has not only brought about fear and panic, but the worse form of emotional instability leading to paranoia among some Ghanaians against persons who are of foreign decent (Asians, Americans and others), front line health workers and even to some extent persons who have recently arrived from abroad and some towns in the country believed to be epicenters.

In Cape Coast and other regions, the story hasn’t changed, yet, this is slowly becoming a precursor to what some school of thoughts or experts may term as xenophobic reactions and negative stereotypes.

Speaking on the Atlantic Wave Morning show on ATL FM, today, Thursday, 2nd April 2020, Mr Nathanya Yehuda Halevi, a Diasporan returnee known to many as Rabbi Kohein, who is now the Executive Director of the PANAFEST Foundation revealed that a section of diasporans who have just returned and hither to were also around have become objects of stigma and stereotyping. This he feared could escalate and perhaps lead to some xenophobic attacks on them, under the notion that they are carriers of the fast spreading coronavirus.

According to him, some sections of the public including some traders at the market and some commercial drivers have even refused to transact business with our disaporan brothers, under the pretext that they have virus once they have the American accent, and this could spurn on much hatred and unwarranted attacks against our brothers of American decent.

“Unfortunately, a few members have reported that there have been some concerns in reference to stigmatization of them especially with their accent coming from the US, and people suspecting them that they carry the coronavirus .

As a result, in approaching taxis or “trotros”, there has been some sort of discrimination they feel that are meted to them because people they are carrying the virus. However, here in Cape Coast and Elmina, most of our brothers have lived here for long and are currently facing what is going on with everybody and this makes people fearful of their presence and they have expressed it to me” he stated.

He further went on to add that the fear of the diasporans and its attendant stigma commenced during the coronavirus pandemic period which hither to, never existed. According to him, it is not at its extreme level and that is primary reason why it has become a great concern, hence he wants the situation to be taken care of via broader discussions, before any paranoia sets in and could escalate into xenophobic attacks.

“Well, it is not at the extremity as at yet, but it is the attitude and the language barrier that comes with it. The fact that people do not want to sit in the same cars with them when they are on board. The concern is that we do not want it to grow. The attitude of suspicion and separation that comes with it. Even though, it is not at that extreme manner, it is the little subtleties that comes with it and the fear that it would grow, and that’s why it’s been expressed so that there could be some sensitization and the discussion at the broader level so that it does not escalate into something else” he stated.

He however bemoaned the ideology that the virus was “imported” hence that strong feeling of concern and wishing that even though everyone feels concerned about his health, it wouldn’t escalate into some form of paranoia causing extreme challenges to the Diasporans.

He thus urged all and sundry to be tolerant of each other and to resist the urge to stigmatize persons from the diaspora as people who are carrying the virus.

BY: ONESIPHORUS OBUOBI

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