By Desmond Tunde Coker
Isatu Kamara, a mother of six children, and Hawa Kalokoh, a mother four children, lost their husbands to the coronavirus pandemic last year, and since then life has been miserable for them and their children. Both recounted that hey face psychological trauma and economic difficulties, as they were abandoned by relatives, friends, and neighbours when news broke out that their husband died of COVID-19.
Kamara explained that after the burial of her husband, she was living in complete perdition as they were ostracized and abandoned by relatives and neighbours. “This situation made it difficult for me to fend and support my children because people who know that my husband died of COVID-19 are afraid to come closer to us,” Kamara said.
She said the some of their children started absenting from school because she could not afford transportation and launch for them. She said that the hardship forced her to resort to street begging to ensure their survival.
When asked what whether she received any support from the government to alleviate their plights, Kamara said that government support lasted only during quarantined period and after which they were left to fend for themselves.
She said the being associated with the coronavirus cost her her dignity and her livelihood. She urged the government to support women who lost husbands to the coronavirus and children orphaned by COVID-19 and to take concrete action to prevent stigma and discrimination against survivors.
Kalokoh, 46, said her husband who is a breadwinner of the family passed away in December 2020, with his death attributed to the Coronavirus by medical practitioners. “Since then, my live and that of the children has been in total pain and agony,” she told this medium.
“We all know the impact of covid-19 has had on families, we are one of the families badly affected by the virus,” she said.
She said that some people are only feeling the economy impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but for her, with the economic effect, the added psychological effects from losing her husband and the stigma associated with the disease is killing her slowly.
“I lost my good friend and a good husband, someone that was there for the rest of the family times,” she lamented.
She said that her husband was not just a husband but a person she used to share her pains with.
Madam Kalakoh said apart from her suffering from psychological effects of Alhajis death as a result of the COVID-19, she is faced with a whole lot of financial challenges in keeping the home going.
According to her, her two daughters used to attend a private school but due to the demise of her husband, she had transferred them to a government assisted school.
“I can’t afford to pay Le5 million ($500USD) school fees for the academic year. But I pray that things get better soon so that I would send them the private school again,” she said.
Having been a housewife for over 15 years, Madam Kalokoh is not accustomed to such odd situation, as well as footing all other billings of everything about their welfare. “After the death of my husband at the Connaught hospital, we were quarantined, placing me in another stress in mourning my husband with little or no food being provided for me and my children,” she noted, tagging the situation as the most excruciating and traumatic moment in her life.
Madam Kalokoh said making matters worse is, that her husband used to be the main aide to his entire relatives, and that though they’re around nobody is well of to give a helping hand to her and children. Late Kalokoh’s eldest daughter, who decided to remain anonymous, was so emotional to note that, my “dad meant everything to me”. She used to love us and went the extra mile to provide for us. She said that life has been strange for them ever since COVID-19 claimed their father’s life, nothing that they used to attend a private school but that’s no more the case.
Harold Thomas, Risk Communication Lead at the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC), said that government through NaCOVERC is providing food items and hygiene kits to families under quarantine. Bjut this support does not extend beyond quarantine period.
He said that NaCOVERC together with partners is also providing psychosocial support to people who recover from the coronavirus and their families.
Note: This story was put together with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) human rights fellowship.