A Bandana and A Prayer: How Dakar’s Essential Workers Cope With COVID-19

Zonk News - A Bandana and A Prayer: How Dakar’s Essential Workers Cope With COVID-19

When Senegalese President Macky Sall announced that the country would be imposing corona virus-related safety measures, Modou Ndiaye–like many other middle class Senegalese–knew very little about how these prevention measures would affect his business or his livelihood.

Ndiaye works every day as a taxi man, from 5 am to 7 pm in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar. His busiest period of the day is rush hour when he shuttles some of Dakar’s 3.8 million inhabitants to and from work. When a mandatory curfew and business closures were enacted on March 23, 2020, his clientele decreased, and so did his life’s savings.

“I don’t have much, but I was forced to sell the only land I had just this month in order to feed my family,” Ndiaye said in early June 2020. 

Ndiaye isn’t alone: 16.9 percent of Senegal’s population was already unemployed before the virus, today the National Agency of Statistics and Demographics estimates that that number will increase by as much as 8 percent before the end of 2020. 

Senegal’s “essential workers” are not unlike others around the globe. Fruit and vegetable sellers, bankers, police officers, public transport workers, fishermen, hospital workers, grocery store employees, chicken handlers and hospital employees remained employed during the peak of the virus that claimed the lives of 60 of 7,400 cases overall.

On March 24 at 8 am Ndiaye bought a white bandana, fixed it to his face, covering his mouth and nose, just as the radio announcements had said, and ventured out into the city full of seaside highways and sand-filled roads, in hopes of earning enough to feed his family before the curfew at that evening.

“It’s been four months, at this point all I can do is pray. We have masks now, and my family is still safe Alhamdulillah, but this isn’t over even though things are reopening and the curfew has ended, it’s still not over.” 

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