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Ethiopia’s social, cultural and economic conditions place significant limitations to the use of lockdown as a public health strategy for containing the spread of COVID-19.
Shielding focuses efforts to prevent vulnerable people from COVID-19 infection.
Shielding empowers communities to stand by each other and harness the power of communal values
Shielding protects against socio-economic and political crises that may result from complete lockdown.
‘When spider webs unite’, says an Ethiopian proverb, ‘they can tie up a lion’. It reflects a relational way of thinking about the world that underlies Ethiopia’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Togetherness is a fundamental value that binds this country of more than 110 million people and is embedded in deep-rooted systems that support communal life. By standing together, we become bigger than ourselves. As health policy stakeholders in Ethiopia, we believe that the only way to contain COVID-19 is to implement strategies embedded in togetherness.1
This notion of connectedness is embodied in the concept of ubuntu, which has been a guiding principle in sub-Saharan Africa for hundreds of years.2 Many great African leaders, including Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, incorporated elements of ubuntu into their work.2 Ubuntu situates individuals within a web of relationships that is born of identifying with others and acting in solidarity. It is by sharing a way of life with others that individuals ‘come into existence’.3 We exist because our social connections remain strong, extending beyond family to embrace …
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