Meryam is 40 and a mother of 10. She walks with crutches after a car accident left her with impairments in both of her legs. She runs her own peanut trade business in Fafan, South East Ethiopia. But the lockdown measures against COVID-19 have put a stop to any activities. Here she tells us about her life at the moment and the changes she has made:
Business has stopped
"I use to sell peanuts for a living. Last month’s profit was around 500 Birr (15 USD). That was rather good. My elder daughter sometimes tailors and sews which generates between 150 and 200 Birr. My husband is a daily labourer, but I bring in the main income for our family. We used to have just enough to cover household expenses like food." explains Meryam.
"Due to COVID-19, the transport of groundnuts from the production sites to me has stopped due to a national ban on travel. I have no source of income apart from my daughter, who still has some sewing orders, and support from one of my sons. Mutual assistance is really the key to cope with such a crisis and survive." she adds.
Schools closed, unreachable doctors
"School teaching programs have ceased. Two of my children are still in primary school and one is in junior school. Children spend all day together in the playground and I really fear this will bring more violence - the longer they stay together the higher the chance of conflict between them." says Meryam.
"Normally I need regular rehabilitation services for my legs but it is currently impossible to have them due to the limitation of movement. Plus, medical teams are mainly focusing on the COVID-19 crisis. A few days ago, my daughter had a severe stomach ache and it took a long time to reach a professional because the few professional health physicians were already engaged in COVID-19 prevention."
Reduced social contact
"I am a member of the local businesswoman’s group and I am used to participating in discussions on a weekly basis with other members about business and other social issues… But the group is smaller than usual. We are not allowed to gather all 25 members at once, and we continue to respect social distancing." explains Meryam.
"I am really sad to see that traditions have been suspended… Last week we were informed that we would not be able to attend funerals. In this time of crisis, we really need strong social cohesion."
Prevention and hygiene
"HI has provided us with COVID-19 hygiene kits and awareness information. I have also received public awareness notifications via mobile and on our local TV about COVID-19’s origin, transmission and preventive measures. I have changed my habits. I used to wash my hands with water only but I am now using soap, like the rest of my family.
We have understood the main messages: frequently wash your hands with soap, no hand shaking when greeting and avoid public gathering.
I want this crisis to pass as quick as possible to be back to normal life" concludes Meryam.