Laura is one of our interns in our team “The Rights of Children and Young People”.  She wrote a comment on how to keep your head up during the pandemic.

Author: Laura-Marie Estermann, Keep your head up – A comment on life during the pandemic 

Keep your head up – A comment on life during the pandemic 

It was March 2020 and I was in West Africa, on a small little island named Malabo, visiting my friend who was working as a teacher in a school in Equatorial Guinea.  I remember us sitting on her bed on a Friday evening and talking about our weekend plans when she got the message that all borders will be closed from Sunday onwards because of the Corona virus, which was still so unknown at the time. I did not know that this would be the beginning of a worldwide pandemic. 

I remember us joking of not going home and staying in the country for ever. But, deep down we were all a little bit shocked. The Corona virus arrived on an island far away from my home country and there was no easy way to go home. I remember all the conversations with the embassy and our families at home and the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen next. After weeks passing by, I was worrying about the deadline for my bachelor thesis, my master application, and my English exam in Germany. There were so many things that had to be done at home, but I was stuck on this island.  

Then, at some point I realized that not only life in this little west African country had stopped, but that life in Germany had stopped too. Everywhere around the world, people got stuck in countries, were isolated in their homes, shops were closed, and businesses, schools and universities shut down. Everywhere, people were affected by the Corona virus – sometimes only in a small way and sometimes in a big way. But in the end this pandemic affected us all.  

Now nearly one year later, we are still affected by the pandemic and every time I talk to someone, I can hear sadness in the voice of my family and friends more and more. They are missing interactions with friends, human touches and all the other consequences of isolation. But there is one thing that cheers me up: the knowledge that I am not alone in this. I am not alone with my feelings and frustration. I am not the only one who is tired of seeing my friends only in front of a screen, studying my last years of university online and doing the same walk around the block (even though I normally hate walking) every evening again and again. I know that this is a challenging time for everyone, and this is the thing that motivates me to keep my head up. To tell my friends and those around me: it is okay how you feel. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be unhappy from time to time. But do not forget, you are not alone in this.  

But this knowledge also means that we have a responsibility.  We have the responsibility to be there for each other, to be there for our friends and families but also for other people. This pandemic is not only challenging usour region, or our country, it is a worldwide problem. Many west African countries and other developing nations struggle the most in this crisis. Therefore, we have the responsibility to address this challenge collectively. We have the responsibility to leave no one behind. No person nor any country. We should try to find solutions that fit everywhere and not only in our region. Our solution should help us to move forward in a more sustainable and united way.  

In the end, we cannot save ourselves from the crisis alone and continue as before, while at the same time in other countries access to health care is poor. Hospitals are overcrowded and people do not even have the necessities to survive. Increasing globalization connects us more and more with the whole world and gives us new freedoms, but also makes us dependent on other parts of the world. Therefore, we cannot just stop the pandemic in our country and expect everything to be the same. This pandemic is not limited to one country or held back by country borders.  

Vaccines and basic health care should not only be available to individual high-income countries, but they should also be available to all. Hygiene standards should not only be discussed and created during a pandemic, but it should also be standard in regular everyday life. Scientists from different nations should continue to research together and develop new vaccines or innovative solutions against climate change that help everyone. We must learn from this pandemic to be there for each other and work together to find new solutions for now and more important for the future. 

We are not alone in this and we can solve this together, so keep your head up – you are not alone.