Diaspora wake up to massive corona outbreak, little support

Thursday April 9 2020

 

By Karoli Ssemogerere

The raging massive flu coronavirus pandemic is showing early signs of “flattening” but at high levels of 500 to 800 people a day in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In the United States, the numbers are rising at a slower rate, but at a much higher rate.
Stubbornly new infections continue to be reported in active epicenters like the big population centres of New York/New Jersey, New Orleans.

In the carnage, little discussed issues are coming up. Black Diaspora, who favour the healthcare industry, are as vulnerable to this scourge as anyone else but don’t have much of an infrastructure to support them.
Diaspora-homeland relations are dominated by one way cash payments to support their families back home and setting up investments to support their families back home.

For the first time, it is the Diaspora that will actually need genuine economic and social support to get through this rough phase. Diaspora have been struck by the disease at all ages, but mostly those who work in the healthcare system.

At the beginning of the scourge, people hurried from overseas to cash in on the extra hours and extra pay as healthcare facilities ramped up on staffing as patients started to die.

Even for those not directly involved in care, they became infected automobiles. Tiny Dubai, UAE, a major commercial centre whose flights remained active alongside Ethiopian Airlines in the African region, did their fair share of transporting infected people.

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Situations like last flight from town cannot be ignored. It said a lot about travel habits, economic habits and a sometimes casual attitude in times of danger.

The young man from Uganda, who went to Dubai to buy mobile phone covers, an important accessory that protects mobile phones. The business was so brisk he rushed back to buy more of them.

Dubai’s liberal business environment made it so much easier so it sent infected travellers back to Africa, but also in North America oblivious that they could be home yet they had embarked on infecting others.

No one has explained why the disease has felled more people in the UK and the US apart from failing to understand the magnitude of the pandemic, a mistaken belief that it could be managed. Governors thought this was a small problem until the numbers begun rolling in.

Large groups who had travelled for social entertainment were returning home fully infected. The tourism industry is a big employer of Diaspora people, especially in times like spring when economic activity is generally slower.

Diaspora at various stages post arrival in their adopted homes are only able to access just a portion of social benefits that citizens enjoy. Earning benefits for self and dependents may take up to 10 years and future benefits are limited to citizens leaving their children hanging.

With anti-immigrant fervour (we want the services, but don’t think you need coverage). Even much lauded programmes like US Obamacare mostly don’t cover immigrants in a time like this where healthcare is not a choice, but a necessity.

Diaspora cash tends to be limited because its covering many mouths on limited resources.
Social responsibility in most Diaspora cultures dictates communalism to share. They rarely have any form of meaningful life insurance as such doesn’t exist because it will require them to be in the country legally.

Unlike their relatives back home, they don’t have health insurance. Unemployment payments that cover workers in situations like these don’t cover immigrants.

By the way, a number of countries realising these loopholes have negotiated bilateral arrangements to preserve where possible the immigrant social security payments numbing this effect.

Uganda and other labour exporters should study a different fund to support Diaspora workers. Many countries like the Philippines, Pakistan and others have even bigger numbers of guest workers. How are they managing? We can’t keep quiet.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.
kssemoge@gmail.com