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One Life, Two Deadly Frontlines

by | Jun 30, 2020

COVID-19 has presented the world with unprecedented challenges. The current situation has led to large parts of our world being shut down and most activities, be them social cultural or economic, being brought to a halt. The scenes of everything being shut down, the media frenzy and living in constant fear style brings back memories of my previous life on one of the world’s most recent destructive frontlines, Syria.

The pandemic presents us with new frontlines as it continues to spread. According to latest figures, as of end of June 2020,  the number is expected to reach around 10 million people who have contracted the virus and led to the  tragic death of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. As I read the news about this deadly virus and the lives it has claimed, I am constantly reminded of reading the news in Syria about the number of people being killed disappeared or made displaced or refugees by that conflict.

The frontline is no longer located in the war-torn frontlines that we know. The frontlines are no longer just in a small village in Syria, Afghanistan, or DR Congo. With COVID-19 the frontlines have found new places to reside. The frontline no longer refers to towns and cities battered by years of war and conflict, where warring parties have been fighting for years and even decades. The frontline is being recreated in new, familiar yet unpredictable places.

Suddenly, the frontline is on your doorstep. The frontline is the minute you step out of your house. A quick look at the streets of major cities across Europe is enough to make you realise that these bustling cities have now turned into ghost towns. News of death and fear populate the newspapers front pages and news headlines.

Palestinian refugees queuing for food in the Yarmouk refugee camp AP Photo/UNRWA

My experience of shopping in the major supermarkets here in the UK and seeing long queues of people and empty shelves at the beginning of the lock down, reminds me of the long queues of Syrians who were queuing for food or water during the height of the Syrian conflict. As is the case with any frontline, it’s usually the elderly the disadvantaged the sick and those with disabilities who would suffer the most.

These new frontlines mean that there are new actors who are now fighting on this new frontline. The traditional fighters on the frontline are not the ones who are talking about today but about the future. Those who are on the frontline are those who are combating this deadly virus. On this frontline, you see doctors, medical staff, care workers, key workers and many other volunteers who have stood up and rushed to the frontline to protect fellow humans from this deadly virus.

Being away from your family, your friends, and your loved ones during this lock down is a constant reminder of the experiences of many people who were forced to leave their homes and loved ones behind. Covid-19 lockdown has restricted the movement of many of us and many people find themselves stuck at home. This is yet another example of many refugees have, for many years, found  themselves trapped in camps unable to go out or undertake any economic activity with little or no prospect for the future.

All in all, we have been talking about frontlines for some time. Remote frontlines and the new frontlines that just emerged near we live. Sometimes it takes a crisis, pandemic or a major upheaval for us to realise that there is one and only frontline and that is the human frontline. We humans need to work together to ensure the safety and the survival of all of us. A simple conclusion based on my experiences but with far reaching implications. As a person who has lived on both frontlines and I can assure readers that, unlike humans, bullets and viruses do not discriminate.