The Brewing Hardships in the New Year

Radio Erena: 04 January 2020

The health authorities in Eritrea have extended the nine-month-old lockdown starting from December 22. To combat the lethal second wave of the pandemic, many countries declared lockdowns, some of them, like France, Germany, and Israel, for the second and maybe for the third time. Eritrea seems to be no exception with the Ministry of Health announcing that 1252 new cases were registered on 30 December. But what is particularly exceptional with Eritrea is the fact that the lockdown comes with the absence of any food or financial aid to the needy. The work had actually slowed to a complete stop in many workshops and the prices had equally sky-rocketed as well.

The fight against Covid-19 “Amplifies the urgency of implementing, with requisite, all the preventive guidelines issued by the government so as to fully break the cycle of the pandemic” said the statement of the Ministry of Health. The extended lockdown bans the travel between towns and villages, the movements between cities aren’t allowed without prior permission and finally, only the necessary work-related movements would be allowed. These restrictions, which will continue well into the new year, are imposed from April and they have forced the dwellers of the capital to use horse carts, bicycles, and wheelbarrows for their urgent commutes and for the movement of goods due to the complete stop of public transport.

For comments on the recent measures, Radio Erena contacted some of its listeners in the capital; an old man described the measure as a “death sentence”, saying that the lockdown just leads to the worsening of the situation and to its bitter consequences. Others have expressed deep cynicism regarding the armed forces’ free movement during the lockdown. Another listener wondered about the use of the lockdown imposed on the civilians while the soldiers are freely roaming between Eritrea and Tigray region as if they are inherently immune against the pandemic, as he acerbically commented.

Although the government has imposed heavy “donations” on Eritreans in the Middle East and the United States for its combat against Covid-19, and these forced-donations have yielded millions of dollars to the treasury, the citizens inside the country haven’t received any financial aid: Artisanal fishermen, taxi drivers, and other craftsmen and craftswomen are already passing hard times with their families. In many countries, the lockdown measures are mitigated with state aid, but in Eritrea’s case, the citizens are left to face the consequences of the pandemic single-handedly.
The situation in the country is deteriorating on daily basis. The picture of an old woman carried on a wheelbarrow to the hospital is sadly telling, yet the measures taken complicate the lives of the citizen in the absence of aid. Where many countries purchased and started giving their citizens vaccination, Eritreans seem to not even think about it under the pressure of the bone-morrow sucking policies.

By Fathi Oman

Photo credit: Social Media