Say no to stigmatization

Published On: April 1, 2020 09:21 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

The world is under the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic—affecting each and every aspect of our life. Lockdown and social distancing have become new normal. Needless to say, no one has been immune to the economic and social fallout of this crisis. Yet, the countries are combating it by taking various measures, because of which people from across the world have started seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Hardest hit the Chinese city of Wuhan has gotten back to normal, for example, and many others are expected to follow suit. Amid the global crisis, however, there is also a rising unity among people to help out those who are suffering or who need help. We have been seeing the good number of good Samaritans coming forward to contribute toward the alleviation of pain and chaos emanating from the pandemic, signaling that the humanity in us is still alive. But sadly, and very, unfortunately, acts of stigmatizing people who are tested positive or who are even just suspected of infection have also started to come out.

One such case has been recently reported from Dang. Laxmi Oli of Dang district is facing stigma just because she happened to share the same flight with one of the passengers who was tested positive. According to Laxmi, she was looked down upon by her acquaintances even before she underwent the test as if she was already infected. Not just that, even her brother, who has nothing to do with anything of it, has been facing the same discrimination ever since her name and whereabouts went viral. She has been tested negative but her agony hasn’t abated. People haven’t stopped casting the same stigma on her. Soon after landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport, she had her temperature tested and it was found to be normal. But the rumor that she shared the flight with the infected passenger did all the damage.

At a time when humanity needs compassion and kindness the most, irrational behaviors like this will be our biggest enemy. Not only such callousness leaves a deep scar on the psyche of the victim, but it also undermines our fight against the pandemic. Disturbing someone mentally can well put them on harm’s way. This is so because a mentally fit person has sufficient will-power to fight the disease from within, and that is what matters the most for the patients. These are the times of hardships for us all. Since COVID-19 is taking the lives of hundreds every single day, we can imagine the level of anxiety the infected people have to go through. Those who are infected need support, encouragement, and compassion from us. People do not knowingly bring the disease onto themselves. We need to encourage those who have been in contact with infected people to go for the test, seek medical care and observe the physical distancing rules. We need to ensure that every infected person gets timely treatment and recovers early. Stigmatization is what must be avoided.

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