Saturday, May 16, 2020

Isolating During Ramadan

One of the stories I heard on PRI's The World yesterday afternoon caught my attention in several phases. The report by PRI journalist Halima Gikandi begins with a broad assessment of the likely impact of the Covid-19 virus on the continent as a whole. Almost every country has reported cases, but they have been relatively few so far. The pandemic is spreading slowly but is expected eventually to overwhelm health-care resources in many places.

The report then turned to the experience of one family in Nairobi. Like approximately 10 percent of Kenyans, this is a Muslim family, and like all Muslim families, Ramadan is a time for being together. I had been only vaguely aware of Ramadan this year, and certainly had not realized we were 3/4 of the way through the month. The reporting describes the difficulty of the neighborhood of Eastleigh, where part of this family lives.


Note that the place names are a remnant of Kenya's colonial past: they are almost equally divided between English and Swahili. 

Eastleigh is a struggling neighborhood in the best of times, and its normally limited access to food has been reduced by public-health closures. The municipal government is struggling to assure residents that it is the high concentration of virus cases and not the religious identity of residents that is responsible. As with many places -- including the United States -- the pandemic is highlighting social issues that might be present but not be widely acknowledged in "normal" times.

The full title of Gikandi's report is Ramadan in Nairobi during a pandemic.

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