How can we reach those who don’t have access to Swedish and other Europan media, who don’t understand the authorities’ statements and the government’s decisions?
*Below is a translated version of an article published in the Swedish daily morningpaper Svenska Dagbladet on 19 March, 2020. Nuri Kino drives through the suburbs of Stockholm to get a grip of the situation.
Maria from Egypt, Elie from Syria, Samar from Iraq, Luke from Nigeria, Ali from Somalia an Kiw from Thailand. They are people living in Sweden, but they live ”off the grid”
I have sent them messenger, I have called them. I want to know how they are, what they are up to, if they are able to keep the job (paid under the table). Are they still eight grownups in a small two-room apartment? I ask them if they know the regulations regarding the coronavirus— that they have to wash their hands thoroughly for at least 30 seconds, they should avoid close contact with others and shouldn’tcommute by bus. I wonder what kind of news they are watching, or if they are they reached by news at all. They hardly know any Swedish. Do they even watch tv at all in their own language? Perhaps youtube channels? Do they still have those large whatsup and telegramgroups they are part of? What’s news there?
My heart is hurting. Not many understand what is going around. They don’t have the means. Nor the time. They try to make as much money as possible, at least SEK 1000 or SEK 2000 more, before everything is shut down.
Three of them have respiratory problems, two of them are diabetics. They have to work, work. Work even more. When they lose one job theyhave to find another quickly, send money to poor and sick relatives. Save some for their own survival. Some kronor here, and some there.
It’s early morning, it’s six o’ clock. I am drivning from the heart of Stockholm to Rinkeby and Tensta. Normally they are called ”socially underprivileged areas”. Some of the poorest second and third generation immigrants live here. These schools have students who leave 9th grade without grades that are high enoug to take them to High School. On my way to Skarpnäck and Haninge I come to think that I should talk to homeless people, so I look up Eva in Hornstull. Has she changed her habits? Does she understand what she needs to do in order not to catch the virus and how to act so she won’t transfer the virus to others? Eva asks me if I am stupid. She needs her ”fucking” shot.
In Skarpnäck I cannot notice any changes. Business as usual. Children are playing outside, schools are still up and running. I stand by my car for about 20 minutes in the central part of the area. People are hoarding, buying food, household goods and toilet paper. I see two elderly men, they each have a bag half empty. I think – we need to help them. We need to do their grocery shopping. You and I.
Botkyrka, Hallunda, Norsborg, Fittja. I park the car at every meter? and talk to some I know, and they introduce me to others. I am very cautious. I have a sick mother and other sick relatives to protect, but also out of solidarity reasons towards others. I tell them about the pressure the healthcare system is facing, that it has been under pressure for a long period of time before the coronavirus outbreak, that we all have a responsibility, that we must stop the virus from spreading in order to ease the burden on our medical staff, our heroes at the hospitals.
On my way to Södertälje I call my cousin Eva who is a medical doctor att Södersjukhuset. She says they know it is calm, they are awaiting the storm. They are trying to be prepared, mobilizing resources and restructuring but it is hard since they are lacking beds. The lack of beds is a result of the systematic downsizing of the emergency hospitals. She says she hopes the politicians need to realise what needs to be prioritized, and it is vital.
In Ronna in Södertälje I have a feeling nothing has changed. It is late afternoon. People are in groups talking. Others have been to the grocery store or to the bakery. It’s like they are unaware of the virus – some are making jokes about it. There are lots of people at the bus stop. Back home I start reflecting again. How will we be able to stop the virus if we won’t be able to reach the people who live off the grid?
I make phone calls. I ask them what media they use and how. They give me several different answers,what they know about the coronavirus, how they were informed and if it changes their every day of life. Their answers confirm my feeling. They are neither reached by the Swedish media, authorities’statements not by the government’s decisions. So how will we reach them?
ADFA (A Demand For Action) the aid organization in Beirut which I started, has started to mobilize. We are making videos and as soon as they are ready, we will post them on all social media. We will also distribute sanitary kits containing soap, desinfectants and gloves. Everyone is a volunteer. The aim is t to reach at least 800 families in ten days with the kits and tens of thousands others with the videos.
In Sweden and other Europan countries we have to do the same thing, and we need to do it now. We have a script translated into 12 langugages. Celebrities all around the world will help record the videos. You will find them our newly created website tellcorona.com.
Please help us speak to them. No hand claps alone, so let’s clap together!
Foto: Hopig Khachadourian