By Manungo Vongai
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, anthropological insights are valuable in making sense of how the disease is spreading and affecting humanity across the world. The insights especially from Anthropology's sub-field of Medical Anthropology, help in disease prevention and the strengthening of health systems.
Anthropology is the study of human nature, human society and human past. Anthropologists study humans and their cultures in different social contexts with the idea of wanting to understand how human beings behave and interact.
The societal nature of human beings is the primary cause for propagation of covid 19.
For all forms and purposes covid is a "societal disease" in that it spreads through contact and interaction between humans.
Here in Zimbabwe handshaking is a large part of societal interaction. Refusal to shake hands pakukwazisana is traditionally viewed as kudada.
The Zimbabwe Government through the ministry of health and various departments is collecting some of these resources to support open and fact-based conversations about the pandemic and community responses. The Government will continue to closely monitor local, national, and international developments while collaborating with the local public health authorities. Hence, the study of human biological and physiological characteristics and their evolution.
This crisis urges us to rethink structures of society and sociality. If the current pandemic sheds light on ongoing social inequalities, it should also, force us to reflect on what we mean when we ask for a return to “normalcy”. What will be normal and what is not. What if these normative orders themselves are exploiting humans and nature to such extent that they cause new and ongoing crises and disasters?
Anthropology provides the basis for understanding how Covid-19 is disrupting the lives of people, how people respond to it and alter their daily routines and also how people understand it. People have changed their daily patterns as a result of Covid 19 prevention mechanisms.
Related to the current environment with this lockdown there could be changes in eating habits of people thus increase in waste generation even panic buying and impulse buying leading to increase in waste generation.
Reduced vending in CBD’s as well as in general activity in CBDs has resulted in much cleaner city centres. The lockdown has given city fathers time to clean the once dirty crowded streets. Lockdown has resulted in drastic reduction of litter and sprouting of illegal vending structures in cities, Harare in particular therefore cleaning the city is key. This is in line with the President E.D. Mnangagwa's National Clean up Campaigns that encouraged towns to clear dumps and clean the environments.
This has also seen the reduction in vehicular movement and closure of industries thus reducing air pollution though in Zimbabwe this impact can be insignificant. However, the Government should make strides to reduce carbon emissions. Climate change and COVID 19 has an unholy alliance.
City fathers and EMA should combine efforts and start what are known as mass sanitisation programs for our cities. All being said and done the Government and the citizens need to ask the following questions:
How do we care at a distance? What is ‘good’ care, by governments for populations? How may we rethink our normative orders, of sociality, citizenship, distribution of care and human-nature relations? What possible models and initiatives do we already see emerging in our dynamic social worlds?
Writing in the middle of the pandemic, we hope that raising these questions will urge all of us to further reflect, not only on the ethics and politics of crisis, but also on the (possible) shapes of our past, present, and future societies.