DIMAPUR, SEPTEMBER 11: Organizations and individuals who were at the forefront of battling and containing the spread of Coronavirus in Nagaland when much about the virus was still unknown, fear among the public relating to it was at peak and many who were stranded because of the sudden imposition of nationwide lockdown, gathered at AIDA, Don Bosco, Dimapur, on Saturday to share their experiences and the challenges they faced.
The session, “The Experience of COVID-19 (First Wave-2020) in Nagaland: A Time of Sharing among Care-givers” was a part of the collaboration between University of Melbourne, Australia, and Oriental Theological Seminary, Dimapur, supported by the Morung Express to explore the impact of COVID-19 (first wave) in Nagaland and 6 participants representing NGOs, churches, and civil societies shared their perspectives.
While some organizations faced very distinct challenges during the first wave of the pandemic, for most, they faced similar difficulties like the stigma at the hands of village and colony authorities.
Muslim Council Dimapur had perhaps one of the most difficult and intriguing stories. According to MCD Working President, Ahidur Rahman, they were working on setting up a quarantine centre at a madrassa like every other community in Dimapur were doing, but around that time the “tablighi jamaat” incident happened and the news of it spread like wildfire and this resulted in people looking at those belonging to the community with suspicion.
Rahman said that this compelled the Council to not go on with the quarantine centre as well as putting a blockade for entry of Muslims in Dimapur for 3 months. Consequently, the MCD worked together with the authorities to identify returnees from the jamaat at Dimapur.
Once the blockade was lifted, people were allowed to enter on the condition of paid quarantines, which sometimes people failed to pay and the community had to take care of that.
In his speech, he also shared that MCD was at the forefront to provide food and essentials to those stranded at the Railway Station, establishing community kitchen, and reaching out to thousands of people irrespective of religion and community in 3 phases under their dedicated project.
Y Awomi, Coordinator, Skill Development, Western Sumi Baptist Akukuhou Kuqhakulu (WSBAK) mentioned that WSBAK managed the quarantine centre at Livingstone International where 155 individuals were quarantined.
Awomi said that when the centre was being managed, they knew very little about how to manage it, so they had to reach out to the administration, which in turn only shared how they can stay away from contracting the virus.
He mentioned that all who were managing the centre had stayed with the inmates as people were scared and they relied on YouTube videos about managing the centre. Further, when the quarantine period of the inmates would be over, they had to negotiate with the hesitant villages/colonies to take back the inmates.
Representing Sisterhood Network, Azung James said that they started with making masks and distributing them. The Network was also included in distributing free ration, supplying saplings, providing legal aid to victims of domestic violence among other things. She shared that the Network had also conducted a survey on 74 returnees at that time and found that 60% of them wanted to stay in Nagaland and only 9 of them were graduate.
Imnatoshi Longkumer, Pastor, Dimapur Area Ao Civil Societies and Churches, sharing his experience during the first wave said that as the quarantine centre being managed by them was in an under constructed building, they had to face numerous problems however many people had come forward to contribute towards the cause financially, which was more than enough and thus the surplus amount was successively used to build a multi-purpose waiting hall at District Hospital, Dimapur.
Representing Vivekananda Welfare Foundation, Reeme Deb, Project Coordinator said in her address to the gathering that they were stunned by the sudden changes and as the days progressed, they started getting requests for food and other essentials from people even outside Nagaland.
She said that they only had limited resources and used them to give meals thrice to stranded and needy people and they didn’t keep a count. She mentioned that their project “Pratibha” through which VWF provides free education to around 150 children was also impacted.
Representing Rotary Club of Dimapur and Indian Society Nagaland, Rakesh Kochar said that during the first wave, there was a problem of shortage of blood adding that when the first wave hit the State and a positive person was detected at Dimapur’s Marwart Patti, the entire area was declared as containment zone and he had to enter the space with ration.
According to him the Red Cross worked with the administration to receive returnees at Dimapur Railway Station, Dimapur Airport and Nagaland Gate, take them to quarantine centres and once their quarantine period would be over, they would make arrangements for their departure.
Yanbemo Lotha, Senior Associate Pastor of Lotha Baptist Church, on the occasion, claimed that during the first wave, the administration could not even arrange transportation therefore he had to put on a “on quarantine duty” sticker on his car and transport people to their respective centres and wondered why the Government isn’t conducting any seminars as yet using the allotted funds to address COVID when NGOs are doing the same.
“Perhaps after the pandemic”, he chuckled.
Stating that because of COVID, many became frontline workers by participation and not by name-tag. He shared a number of personal stories among which was how his proposal of Pastors going out to the people with message of love and positivity was first rejected, then applied, and subsequently became a resounding success that continued for months.
Earlier, Dr Sashi Jamir, faculty of OTS, said that the goals of the project are to come up with a journal which would be taken care of by the University of Melbourne and to come up with a COVID (first wave) handbook including statistics, stories, arts, poems, etc. And it would be taken care of by OTS.
(Page News Service)