In The Words Of Zahra Namuli..." My family is at a risk of COVID -19"

Zahra Namuli is a female journalist reporting on health issues at NBS TV in Uganda. When most people, including journalists are locked down in their homes, Namuli is one of the few remaining female journalists at the frontline reporting about COVID -19 in Uganda. UN Women engages female journalists on popularising gender equality and women empowerment in Uganda.

Date: Monday, May 25, 2020

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Zahra Namuli, journalist. Photo: UN women

It is a quite a tricky situation. People are at home and many of them are glued to their televisions yearning for information about COVID-19. They cannot easily access such information if there is no journalist to pass it on or to break it down in a simplified manner.

I am happy that I have been able to change people’s perception about COVID-19 as well as break the myths and misconceptions about the pandemic. The Ministry of Health cannot be in the fight against COVID-19 alone. They need journalists like me. Today, people can understand the urgency and why the ministry wants them to stay home and wash their hands often.

Media houses tend not to front female reporters in risky environments. When COVID-19 broke out in Uganda, some reporters were puzzled on whether to continue working or not. Some were saying, “what if I get infected?”  For me, health reporting is my specialty. I had nowhere to run.  I opened my mind for whatever could happen to me.  I looked at it as an opportunity to grow my career.  If I run away during the pandemic, then who will do it?

Of course, I am afraid of contracting COVID-19 because journalists are not immune to it. I keep reminding myself to observe precautions by wearing a mask, gloves and always sanitizing my hands. In case I contract the disease, chances are high for my workmates to get it too. I dread the burden of being quarantined for 14 days.

I also have a very young family. Whenever I reach home, I first sanitize before touching anything. I cannot touch my child until I am sure I am clean enough, I cannot touch the door knobs. I live with my elderly mum whose risk is high in case she gets COVID-19. I am a threat to my family now. For them they are keeping home, me I am out and about. If I come back with a virus, I will make them sick too. This scares me but I must take all the necessary precautions to ensure that I keep my people safe.

My routine has not changed a lot. It is only the preparation for compiling a story that has changed. Before I leave for the field, I first identify the kind of preventive measures and gear needed for such an assignment. Is it a mask? gloves, or disinfectant?  What kind of microphone do I need to move with?

Access to information is a big issue. COVID-19 being a new disease, there are limited sources of information about it. I may have story ideas but there are no answers from the sources. Even the ministry officials and the medical teams do not have the rights words to break down information about COVID-19. For me to have a balanced story, I must read a lot about how other journalists elsewhere have covered the pandemic. When you read, you know what to include in the story.