It’s been 20 weeks and 5 days since the Novel Coronavirus came to Ghana, and out of the 37,812 people that we know to have been infected, 191 people have died so far.
That is undoubtedly 191 people too many, but we must also point out that at a death rate of 0.5%, things could be a great deal worse for Ghana.
This is an uncommon blessing. An almost five-month-long run of relatively good fortune.
The concern most people have is that, much as we wish this lucky streak would last forever, we must still plan for the worst. COVID-19 however, is not the easiest thing to plan for. There are so many unknowns. We don’t know how to cure it.
We don’t know when we will get vaccines, and whether we can afford them. If we do get vaccines, we don’t know how long the antibodies will last. Worst of all, we don’t know whether there will be longer lasting side-effects for those who have been infected.
There’s a lot we don’t know, and as humans, we fear the unknown. The problem with fear is that it paralyses us. When there is so much we don’t know, it makes us feel like there’s nothing we can do, like all efforts would be futile. So we freeze. We do nothing. We pretend there’s no problem, or we blame it all on something outside our control, we go into denial, and soon, we get overtaken by events, and find ourselves in crisis. And then it’s too late.
The fear of the unknown is a very dangerous thing. The human experience will always involve problems and obstacles. The worst thing you could face a problem with is ignorance. In our hometowns, unexplained death is often blamed on some elderly relative, who gets branded a witch.
We spend all our time condemning this witch – in a recent gruesome extreme, stoning her to death – while the real cause – often something manageable, like diabetes – just gets left unresolved, so more people keep dying for no obvious reason, and more innocent people get branded as witches.
We have a problem with slums in this country. We don’t seem able to stop people from settling where they shouldn’t, and before we know it, they have laid down roots, dug in for the long haul, and created a community for themselves. A community with no toilets, with no streets, with no utilities, no leadership, no representation.
We drive past them every day and pretend they don’t exist. We don’t feel affected by their disgusting living conditions. That’s them, not us. Until they start having diseases. Until the filth, they have to live with becomes the flooding we have to deal with. Then all of a sudden, it’s a problem. A problem we have no idea how to fix. And the worst thing to face a problem with is ignorance.
Ignorance. A total lack of knowledge, inspiration or ideas. The sort of thing that makes us raze down a slum after giving three days’ notice to the inhabitants, without any thought of where they will move to – without the imagination to tell us they are likely to simply settle in some other slum – without the inspiration to conceive a lasting solution to the problem that does not involve depriving our own nation’s citizens of their fundamental human right to shelter.
Without the knowledge that razing down a slum does not solve the flooding problem, but simply adds a homelessness problem to it.
Anyway, I was talking about COVID-19. And our fear of the unknown. There is so much we don’t know, and that breeds fear, which paralyses us. So what’s the solution? ow do we fight the fear of the unknown? Well, we fight what we don’t know with what we DO know.
We don’t know how to cure it, but we DO know what we can do to ensure the fewest people possible get infected in the first place. Are we doing that, or is that not our priority? We don’t know when we will get a vaccine, but we DO know that we must have a plan to purchase and distribute it when it does. Have we put that in place, or will we wait until the last minute and end up with chaos? We don’t know how long antibodies will last in the recovered and the vaccinated, but we DO know that there will be a period of immunity that will make them the safest amongst us.
Are we harnessing that “superpower” and use it to our advantage in this fight, or are we stigmatising them and spreading conspiracy theories about vaccines? We don’t know whether those who get it will suffer long term side effects, but we DO know that the only way to find out is to monitor everyone who has had it and record our findings. Is anyone doing that? Anyone at all? Fear is caused by ignorance, and knowledge is the solution.
This solution applies to all the things we fear as a people. We may not know whose fault it is that our economy is going through all these … challenges, but we do know that the solution is up to all of us. We may not know when our wages will finally catch up with our bills, but we do know the only things that will get us from now to then are sacrifice and discipline.
We may not know how to deal with slums, but we do know that if we don’t enforce our laws, more and more of them will keep springing up around us. We may not know what killed our relative in the village so suddenly, but we do know it keeps happening to others, no matter how many witches we lynch.
The simple solution to our fear of what we don’t know lies in our application of what we DO know. Ignorance breeds fear, but knowledge is power.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I may not know everything, but I do know a thing or two. That’s why I’m not afraid.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!