This time of the year is strange and anxiety-producing. The day media began discussing Coronavirus, or COVID19, in January 2020, their reports were an early signal that the world is changing. Ever since, many of us are under stay-at-home orders. Italy experienced over 1000 deaths in one day. As of this writing, the world has over 3,000,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 228,269 deaths.
Although some are in denial, the vast majority of humanity is left in utter shock and fear as to how a singular event could trigger a complete halt in human affairs. The Coronavirus (aka, COVID-19) pandemic- which was first reported in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China- has successfully plunged the global economy, disrupted global social events, as well as killed tens of thousands of people while leaving millions infected and vulnerable. Among those disproportionately affected are society’s often marginalized and excluded populations. The world is in the midst of a pandemic, and social workers should be a part of the response team, lending a hand to the healthcare professionals.
The Nexus between COVID 19 and Social Work
Recounting our professional values – service, dignity, and worth of people, human rights, social justice, privacy, integrity, and importance of human relationships – which COVID-19 has undermined and, in some instances, overturned. It has become increasingly notable that if the pandemic most hurts any profession, it is the social work profession. To this end, professionals must be at the frontline of not only responding to the epidemic but also amplifying their action if they are to be taken seriously by citizens and critics alike.
This leads to the role of a social worker. They are needed. The work along the continuum of social work from macro to micro levels will be crucial if the professional obligations are to be fulfilled. Speaking of professional social workers, various educational sites offer MSW online courses to help you take your passion for helping people in these testing times.
At the time of Ebola, social service workers played a critical role in addressing the broader social impact, whereas a similar outreach and response are expected for Coronavirus. Since they are trained community mobilizers and trusted community members, they helped to combat and build awareness about the myths of Ebola in an intense environment of stigma and fear. Similarly, any disease or virus outbreak or pandemic does bring not only physical suffering for those who are infected, but also mixed feelings of panic, loss, shock, grief, shame, anger, and suspicion to the survivors and the both.
With the increased stress and challenges faced during an emergency as big as this, such as food insecurity, interruptions in schooling, loss of family income, and access to health care can make matters go out of hand. There would be more mental damage rather than physical.
Since more and more countries extend their support to their trained health professionals to be on the front line and treat an increasing number of patients, the recognition of the importance of social service workers and the roles they play are equally important during the coronavirus outbreak.
How can a social worker contribute to this?
Given the incursion of the pandemic, it is more probable that the response of a social worker should also be within healthcare institutions in urban, rural, and suburban locations as well as economically-deprived households who have little or no knowledge of medical insurance or self-care. Keeping all this in mind, a social worker has to play their part in various roles. The following are some of the areas where social workers can serve humanity.
- Mental Health: Some of the social workers work at the mezzo and micro levels. Since the population has been isolated, told to maintain social distance, there has been an increase in the number of anxiety and depression cases.
Social media and telehealth is an excellent way of getting to the mental stress patients and bringing them out of the fold of depression and anxiety without having to leave your homes.
- Educate the precautionary measures: While the doctors are out there on the frontline, it is imperative as a social worker to educate the illiterate society about the virus. Many people living in the rural side of the country have no proper access to the internet or television.
While taking all the necessary precautionary measures, the social workers are needed to educate the uninformed population about social distancing, preventive measures, and what to do in case if one of them gets affected. Distributing masks, soaps, and sanitizers would be a bonus.
- Control Poverty: For example, many countries like Pakistan have played an immense role in this time of need. Social workers, as well as the local public, have been risking their lives trying to help out there fellow citizens in need.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, made a statement that 25% of Pakistan’s population cannot afford to eat twice a day. Since the country followed more strict lockdown measures and forcing people to remain isolated, many daily wage earners like the street-food vendors or street cobblers haven’t been able to earn a single rupee in weeks. As a result, they could starve of hunger.
Nevertheless, social workers, as well as the local public in Pakistan, have joined hands to help these daily wagers in a unique and inspiring way. Many offer a traditional Muslim charity called zakat for daily wage earners who have no paid leave, financial safety net, or health insurance.
Apart from this, the social workers have been distributing ration packets, which consist of the primary grocery and cooked food, to the daily wagers.
Humans as a whole need to come together to cure the world of this virus. Besides the rest of the people, the social service workers should also be reminded to consider their health and well-being. Otherwise, there would be no hero out there to help these people in need. Tough times require tough measures. Stay home, stay safe.