We need to love one another more at these trying times – Meffo
Lidwine Meffo, an author, philanthropist and founder of Smiling Foundation, one of the 50 most influential young Africans speaks on her confinement amid lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus
When I first heard of coronavirus
At the outbreak of Coronavirus in China in December, not many people heard of it or thought it would become a global topic for discussion let alone grow to become a pandemic. To many people like, Meffo, it was just another epidemic breaking out of china and would soon be dealt with.
So, not many people like Meffo thought by January, it would still be around and far beyond, claiming tens of thousands of life.
And the news about the virus reached Meffo by January 5th, 2020, as “the word COVID-19 was just a virus killing 3 or 10 Chinese” people.
The young philanthropist had gone to Cameroon in December for the annual holiday season, to spend time with family and friends. To her, it was hunky-dory as “everything went great.”
While 2019 was good, “we all made wishes during New Year’s eve. I wished for a clearer vision for my 20/20 year. I felt it was my year to have a blast and having a breakthrough and I wished for something different to get into me during this year awaited by the entire world.”
The excitement of entering the new millennium was felt across the world but Chinese city of Wuhan, known for its auto-industry was under the grip of what was later to be declared a pandemic.
To Meffo, all hope was for a better new year starting from a trip to “China to celebrate the Chinese New Year on January 24th. However, something strange happened at the consulate of China in Cameroon – after visiting 67 countries in the world, I was refused the visa for the first time in my life.”
She did not understand what was brewing . Nonetheless, she was required “to go to the U.S. to get a visa or get a residency card in Cameroon.”
Looking back, she said, “It makes sense now. I decided to make a residency card which I did.”
Unfortunately, after a return to the consulate for the visa on the appointed date, she was asked to return on another day prompting her to leave for an appointment in DR Congo. She however got it when she returned to the U.S.
But by that late January in New York, news of new cases of infections from the virus was rising as “by the 20th (January), there were over 400 dead people in China and it was already alarming. People couldn’t ignore what was happening in China anymore, the world was getting scared, I was getting scared but at the same time, I thought everything will be gone in couple of days.”
With the rising cases of the infections, things were beginning to change but she still had some engagements to attend. “I had a couple of meetings to attend in the UK and I contacted the organizers who confirmed about the ongoing event of the Commonwealth services organized by the royal family in London.”
The young African known for her education for rural dwellers across Africa flew to London. While there, news about the virus was the major topic of discussion.
But while still largely confined in China, she “flew to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem but the frontiers were closed on the 12th of March. It was getting over everyone’s mind and I decided to travel to Dubai on March 16th where the numbers seemed okay.”
At this time, reported cases of infections had emerged from Europe and the Middle East.
Meffo in the middle as one of 50 leading ladies in West Africa
When I was confined
She explained that her confinement started in London as precautionary measure but deaths from the virus had not alarmed people.
It was while she arrived in Dubai, that reality began to dawn. But he said, “I felt normal even though we were already wearing masks every where. I had time to go to good restaurants, to do some shoppings and to visit one site.
“After the third day, it was mandatory for everyone in Dubai to wear gloves and masks before entering supermarkets or pharmacies. It was still okay in Dubai because people were still active on the street but no restaurant was opened to the public. It was a psychosis, people were scared. On March 25th the regulations against COVID19 was implemented.”
The authority initiated regulations to curtail the spread. It involved taking temperature reading of everyone entering stores, a 2-metre distance between people inside a store, hand sanitizers inside every shop, no more than 4 people inside the elevator, no more than 3 people inside a car, wearing masks and gloves even walking alone in the street.
When I started missing what I love to do
Meffo is a workaholic, full of energy and innovative. She engages in frequent research and is always booked for one engagement or another to deliver speech in dozens of countries in a month.
She’s a writer too. She has published three books to her name and loves writing and giving speeches. In between these engagements, she’s commissioning borehole in remote communities across Africa or she’s donating books to local schools.
But all that is about to change, at least for now.
But then she loves her family too because they inspire her with all the needed supports. But with stringent rules against use of social media and other means of communication, Meffo feels she is in prison.
“I never stayed more than 10 days away from my family. The idea of being trapped and not doing what I love is what I don’t like so much, I can’t go on the street freely, I can’t run to my favourite restaurant anymore, I can’t choose my favourite outfit for my special outing. I am missing the idea of not being free.
“I missed my family the most and I still do.”
When confinement began to get on me
It is strange to expect everyone to be confined. But with the alarming spread of the virus and deaths being recorded, it is a necessary precaution.
Yet, not a few people began to feel the pain of the confinement.
“No one was ready for this confinement thing, Meffo said.
But it is not a choice. “It got to me when I was trapped in Dubai, precisely on March 28th when the U.S. lost 1,200 people in 24 hours.”
Still she feels the pangs of confinement such that “each time someone pronounces that word, it reminds me of COVID-19.”
When I braced up to face reality
“I became alert since the first phase of this disease,” she said. “I was already washing my hands as many time as possible.”
“I was already drinking lemon tea and ginger, I was ready to protect myself before even the intervention of the government,” she said. “Now it’s at the acceleration phase and we got to stay confined and stop spraying the virus around.
“This virus went out of control and it everyone’s responsibility.
“I believe there will be more cases,” as she feels infections may “still go for another month or two” before final solution.
He urges “People to respect the rules.”
Her major concern is about Africa. Being a continent with the highest number of poor people, who rely on daily income and petty trade for feeding, Meffo is worried this confinement could hit the poor households in Africa hard.
“I know deep down it is not that feasible for our families back home in Africa who lives on a day to day bases, who live in a household of 10 to 15 family members, who have nothing to relying on, who can’t afford to skip a monthly rent.
“This situation is also not doable for some Africans living in non-favourable areas, women and widows living in rural areas.
“There is not such thing as non-essential business in Africa because they do not have a choice. However we got to try.
I lost three people due to COVID19 and that is enough to face the reality.”
The kind of news I let in during this confinement
As an avid reader, she struggled to read just anything about the virus. And that had it shortcomings.
In an era of fake news propelled heavily by the social media, a lot of fake news about the virus were wired across the word. Meffo was not left out of those who were caught in this web of twisted messages.
“At first I wanted to read everything and anything, I was on WHO page, United Nations, CNN, FRANCE24, Facebook and forwards from friends and family, you name it and than it became overwhelming. I wasn’t sure anymore of what was true or not. People were going out of control.
“I decided not to open any more forwards, not to read anything on social media about the Coronavirus. However, I stuck to the officials sites such as W.H.O and The World Economy Forum website as well as CNN. Of course as an American, we have to know what is happening in the U.S.
“Fake news are one of the greatest killers,” she warned, adding “many people may die by lack of knowledge and proper information.”
What I eat
The regular participant of UN General Assembly likes different kinds of food anytime. She likes to try new food. It’s like an adventure to her. Does she still find time for that during this confinement.
“During my stay in Dubai, I checked into a hotel at first and then moved to a furnished apartment where I am able to cook my own meal.
“It was quiet of an adventure because I was planning my cook a day ahead because going to the supermarket has become a hustle. I make a weekly schedule meal so I wouldn’t go out every day.
“During the past 17 days, I have cooked everyday: Rice paye y’a – which is à Spanish dish
– Lo Mei – Asian dish
– Okra – African dish
– Salmon olive salad
– Eggplant with salmon – Turkish dish
– Potato salad and spaghetti – American dish
– Pakistanaise bread and sauce – pakistanaise dish
Meffo loves exercise. She engages in exercise routines knowing the full benefits of such, and to be feat always because of her frequent journey.
But engaging in that during confinement is difficult.
“I have lost track of my exercise routine, I have a health app on my phone which is tracking my daily steps. I am supposed to do 5000 steps or more on a single day. Since I am not able to walk that much, I do Pilates and yoga which is for me a likeness of a different kind.
“I also exercise my mind with meditation which starts at 7am every day for a length of 60 minutes or more. I do pray as a Christian. I try to fast twice a week to have an equilibrium mind.
I have discovered that a balanced mind is the key to keep what you have hardly work for in life, there is nothing compared to a great state of mind.
“My exercise routine includes also drinking two cups of warm water in the morning.
“I don’t see drinking water as part of what I eat but part of my exercise lifestyle because I am not used to liking the idea of drinking water so much.”
My relationship ( suffering or growing)
Meffo is happy and is in a healthy relationship. And they keep in touch despite the confinement and she’s happy for the kind of partner she has.
“My relationship is growing during this psychosis period, knowing that you have someone who loves you dearly, someone who checks on you every minutes, someone who reminds you how much they love you and you mean to them.
“It gives you strength to look at what is happening around the glob.
“Lové is greater and it’s also a time to show some love to one another more than anything.
“Indeed, it also suffering because of the distance and the fact that we are not really able to talk via WhatsApp.
“However, we try to share everything about our daily activities, what we cook, what we are, we talk about movies, potential businesses. We try as much as we can to be there for each other.”
What I look forward to after…
She is not ready to give up on her plans for the year and the life ahead. And she advises everyone not to but to see this period as one moments of setback but people would grow stronger.
While “this is a wake-up call for everyone, I have learned that frontiers do not exist otherwise 103 countries wouldn’t be affected, never take someone for granted.
Also, “Tomorrow is not promised, love even harder and never think of those who hurt you in the past, equality does not exist but it should, the ones who check on you during this time are the ones who care.”
She advises people to “Look on a daily basis into your inner self – be at peace always, fear is the greatest killer and a monster, you decide who you want to be not other people, economy matters but life matters the most.
“I look forward to become a better human being and to do my part whenever needed for the betterment of this world. This is a reality check for me.”
Meffo was speaking with Daily Mail from her confinement in Dubai, United Arab Emirate on Wednesday.