Fighting COVID-19 Together

How shall I describe Afghans? Maybe through three words: ‘broken yet hopeful.’ Why broken? Decades of war have a vast effect on them but still, it did not take away hope from their hearts. Despite many challenges, lack of united leaders, maintaining security, pursuing peace, and addressing COVID-19,  people have learned to live life as it is.

How shall I describe Afghans? Maybe through three words: ‘broken yet hopeful.’

Shugofa Ayub

Currently, the population of Afghanistan is 38.92 million, based on estimates from the latest United Nations data. According to UNHCR, there are almost 2.5 million refugees registered from Afghanistan. They comprise the second-largest refugee population in the world.

If you ask why people immigrate? The answer is simple: when government exists but it can not mitigate violence; when children have to go to school and parents are letting them go but with fear in their hearts – ‘what if a terrorist attack will happen on their way; what if I will not see my child again?’  – these are the reasons.  Also,  businessmen fear that he or someone of his family members may be kidnapped. There are many other situations like this. Yet, Afghans stand up and continue their lives because they have to survive, they have to get an education, they have to work, grow, and develop.

Yet, Afghans stand up and continue their lives because they have to survive, they have to get an education, they have to work, grow, and develop.

Shugofa Ayub

But do their nightmares end when they ultimately move to another country? Unfortunately, no! They describe their lives as: ‘Overcrowded, very dirty, sleeping literally on the ground, and this is happening in the European Union’ (NPR). According to Human Rights Watch, referring to Afghan refugees: ‘They are denied to access adequate medical services and education, abused and mistreated by police, guards, and other detainees, and unable to seek asylum.’ I would say this creates new traumas and exacerbates previous ones.

According to my experience, in Russia, you should know the language in order not to be criticized, discriminated, or abused. It is been several years that my family lives here, knowing completely the language, attending Russian school, honoring veterans, respecting their culture, and values are not enough since you will still be discriminated. You can face mistreatments with other nationalities, and, in some situations you face racism as well. Sadly, the voices of racist people end up being louder. For example, when I entered the house I have taken for rent, in the elevator, it was written everywhere ‘смерть чёрным’, which means ‘death to black’. In such situations, here black is referred not actually to African people, but rather those who have black hair and darker skin color than of theirs. It is also hard to get a job since they will prefer their citizens rather than others.

When I entered the house I have taken for rent, in the elevator, it was written everywhere ‘смерть чёрным’, which means ‘death to black’. In such situations, here black is referred not actually to African people, but rather those who have black hair and darker skin color than of theirs.

Shugofa Ayub

Despite all these obstacles, COVID-19 hit the surface of the whole world. In the case of Russia, it continues to see daily rises in new coronavirus infections. President Putin has declared to extend the quarantine. We have been also warned of another spike in Covid-19 cases if people ignore lockdown measures.

Shugofa’s daughter, Tabasom, learning English Alphabet at home

Speaking of preventive measures, it is not allowed for the majority to work and go outside. Surely, you can go out to the close grocery shop or pharmacy, but if you are going more than 100m away from your house – you need to obtain a pass. Unfortunately, this made those people’s life difficult who do not have the government’s support (because they are breadwinners). But even if some have, they are still in need for life’s necessities. Through my room’s window, I have witnessed people looking inside the garbage to find something to eat or wear. Most of them feel ashamed of doing it, so they check either early in the morning or late at night when the majority is sleeping.

Through my room’s window, I have witnessed people looking inside the garbage to find something to eat or wear.

Shugofa Ayub

As E. W. Kenyon said: ‘Faith talks in the language of God. Doubt talks in the language of man.’ When there is a doubt that vaccines may not come soon, we should have faith and take advantage of the most precious thing we have – time. But before then, it is also important to set our minds positively. Negativity will destroy not only you but also anyone who is around you. That is why I care for my family and will do anything to keep them happy and healthy.

Negativity will destroy not only you but also anyone who is around you. That is why I care for my family and will do anything to keep them happy and healthy.

Shugofa Ayub

Since the beginning of the quarantine, I have turned my house into a kindergarten for my children, where I am the cook, teacher, and cleaner. I have set a target for them to teach them Quran Kareem, English Alphabet, and numbers. For entertainment, I downloaded amusing games that teach children certain things I want them to know. Also, they need to get involved in arts, therefore, we have a session of drawing, crafts from plasticine or paper. I also do engage them with gym classes, so they stay fit and get a habit to exercise.

Since the beginning of the quarantine, I have turned my house into a kindergarten for my children, where I am the cook, teacher, and cleaner. I have set a target for them to teach them Quran Kareem, English Alphabet, and numbers.

Shugofa Ayub

For the question of how do we spend quality time with my family, we play games, such as ‘UNO’, ‘Mafia’ – they are very interesting and simple games to play with family. You can create one yourself with paper. Check the following link for it: https://youtu.be/p0in-o2RxdE. Nonetheless, I get myself busy with reading books, praying, attending online courses, and working on my potential project. Furthermore, if there is nothing to play or watch, we are remembering sweet and funny memories from the past to laugh at it. If you do not have anyone to talk to, you can call your family and friends to refresh your old good memories with them. That will give you hope to stay strong and believe that lockdown may end soon.

Shugofa teaches her children painting skills during quarantine. One of the paintings of Tabasum, Shugofa’s daughter

If you do not have anyone to talk to, you can call your family and friends to refresh your old good memories with them. That will give you hope to stay strong and believe that lockdown may end soon.

Shugofa Ayub

I can also recommend seizing this opportunity to develop yourself: you will not find this time again to spend not only with your family but to invest in yourself. There are plenty of trainings available now (you can find for free), where you can expand your knowledge, just check on Google and you will find!

To sum up, if you are healthy that is the wealth you have since you can reach your goals and live your life as you want. Without good health, it may remain a dream for you. Therefore, treat it as your treasure since nowadays there is a chance to lose it too. As such, wash your hands, wear masks when going out and be patient with the preventive measure to avoid COVID-19. I would like to request please do not forget to support the vulnerable. Let’s pray that Allah brings prosperity and peace in our country and the whole world so that no citizen will be obliged to leave his/her country. May Allah help us all.

If you are healthy that is the wealth you have since you can reach your goals and live your life as you want. Without good health, it may remain a dream for you.

Shugofa Ayub
Shugofa and her younger daughter, Manahel

Author: Shugofa Ayub is a Business graduate from the American University of Afghanistan. She is former Project Officer at UNDP Afghanistan.

Editor: Thomas P. Valenti


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