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When being humane is a challenge

  • Published at 02:10 pm March 18th, 2020
Photo: Bigstock

Could isolation reignite the essence of family life?

That people worldwide are becoming lonelier is a fact that is known and understood, yet not enunciated enough. Individualism has taken on such proportions where the “I” has sadly replaced the “we.”

As we face one of the biggest crises of a generation, world leaders sing from the same hymn sheet when they say “we’re in this together.” On one hand the concept of quarantine suggests greater family bonding whereas the truth is about isolation. 

The beauty and joy of joint families is almost something of the past, so much so that psychologists are beginning to worry about the mental health issues connected with prolonged periods of isolation.

Health officials are bending over backwards to emphasize the need to protect the more vulnerable, such as elderly persons and those with underlying health conditions. The ground reality is that these persons -- who have made up the majority number of deaths -- are being consigned to further loneliness, and in all probability, are victims of a prioritization that is inevitable. 

In times of war, field doctors and surgeons bedevilled by the invariable shortage of medicine and equipment have to take difficult decisions. News trickling out of China and Italy suggest that physicians are having to make such heart-wrenching decisions about who to treat or not.

Medical science has progressed, and the global life span of the individual has increased. Focus has been on addressing diseases and lifestyle choices that have an impact. But the slowness with which the world has reacted to the corona pandemic has frustrated the World Health Organization. 

The agency appears toothless, as instead of resources being made available to detect and prevent the spread of the virus, more concern seems to be on the economic impact. Some of the sums being made available for economic reasons far outweigh the funds provided for testing, treatment, and preventing the spread.

Now, like never before, we shall see for real the impact on the workforce that depend on daily income to survive with their families. Countries, even economically troubled ones, will have to dig deep into their reserve funds to support their citizens. 

Not knowing for how long this will run is a daunting task. One shudders to even think of what might happen in densely-populated Bangladesh. There are doubts whether self-quarantine is being properly followed and the news that Bangladeshis from badly affected countries are being allowed to go on self-quarantine isn’t comforting in any way.

We too have reported a rise in lifespan. Most of these persons remain out of social safety nets, somewhat evinced by the growing number of elderly plying rickshaws and driving CNGs. There are still many instances of the elderly living with their children and not all are looked after properly. 

In the towns and cities, elderly couples and singles are left to provide for their own with their offspring leading lives abroad. With unemployment at unacceptable levels, it becomes all the more difficult for children to take care of their parents. On the contrary, there are many that still depend on parents to supplement whatever income they have. 

The disparity in equitable distribution of wealth is already pinching hard, and fiscal policies are beginning to bite on the incomes of those who have retired, or are pensioners.

Maybe, just maybe, isolation of families could reignite the essence of family as it used to be.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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