In Dakahlia and Beyond, Egypt’s Healthcare Workers Are Facing Horrific Discrimination Due to the Coronavirus
On Saturday, locals in two neighboring villages in Egypt’s Al-Dakahlia refused to allow the burial of a deceased doctor in local cemeteries; the reason was that “she died of COVID-19 complications”.
Dr. Sonia Abdelazim Aref, a retired physician, passed away after she had contracted the novel coronavirus, and when the grieving family followed the ambulance to the local cemetery in Shobra Al-Bahw village, they were surprised to find a disgruntled mob demanding that they not bury her there, in the burial ground owned by her husband. The locals feared the infection and asked the family to drive the body to Dr. Aref’s home village instead, Mit Amil. Healthcare professionals accompanying the family reassured the people that precautionary measures were taken to ensure the community’s safety, but their words fell on deaf ears. The mob was adamant in its demand.
Helpless and defeated, the family followed the ambulance to the neighboring village, where they were surprised to find another mob demanding the same thing. These villagers did not want Dr. Aref to be buried in fear of COVID-19. It was the final straw; the family then contacted the police, which drove the hearse to Shobra Al-Bahw; here, police forces dispersed those protesting with tear gas and ensured the body is safely buried. Dr. Aref’s son recalls that it took them six hours to bury her.
People took to social media to express their outrage, and rightly so. There is no way to sugarcoat it; what happened in Al-Dakahlia was inhumane.
In the aftermath of the incident, other healthcare workers expressed how they are being discriminated against in a series of Facebook posts. Some claimed that captains of Uber and Careem stopped picking up customers from the vicinity of hospitals, others recounted far worse atrocities, from one tenant suing the landlord for renting out apartments to doctors and nurses to families of victims assaulting them and trashing medical equipment. It is deplorable.
We are in a crisis, and our doctors and nurses are at the front lines sacrificing their lives and the lives of their loved ones for the whole community, and how do we repay them? Ingratitude and discrimination.
Despite all the effort put in by the Ministry of Health and Population, it seems that rumors and misinformation still have a sway on the average citizen. One can only wonder when will we be able to see things for what they truly are as a people.
In these dark times, our healthcare workers are what stand between us and total chaos. If we do not have their backs, who will? If they decide to not show up for work tomorrow, who will take care of the hundreds infected each day? It’s time we wake up.
It is worth mentioning that the Governor of Al-Dakahlia announced that the governorate is to name a school in the honor of Dr. Sonia Abdelazim Arafa. The leaders of the mob were also apprehended and are awaiting trial.