My name is Kennedy Muhindo Wema. I have been working as a journalist since 1999. I am based in North Kivu, which is a permanent war zone for over 30 years. I am currently working for Radio Soleil, I am also a correspondent for the German newspaper TAZ and a representative of Reporters Without Borders in the DRC. I am very fond of two kinds of journalism: science journalism and political journalism. I did social science research on the tenth Ebola outbreak in North Kivu. It was a great opportunity to address political and scientific (health) issues as I worked on a project with foreign professors to understand how the response could be humanized.
My research on the response to the 10th Ebola outbreak led me to work on the COVID-19 pandemic. Covid-19 arrived the day after the Ebola outbreak was declared over in my region. This had confused many people and created two types of reactions. Some people thought it was another invention of the political authorities to kill more people than Ebola had done, but others also thought it was a new opportunity to earn more money like in the Ebola response. The former soon realized that the issue was international in scope when the Media was broadcasting that there were thousands of deaths in Europe and particularly in China.
The response to Covid-19 is very different from Ebola. For example, in the Covid-19 pandemic, patients are treated directly in hospitals and sometimes they are followed up at home without being hospitalized. By contrast in the Ebola epidemic, the patients were treated in treatment centers parallel to the health system. There has been less money for the new Covid-19 response and fewer NGOs are involved in the response compared to the Ebola epidemic.
It seems that barrier measures have become a new social normality. The arrival of Covid has changed many things in social behavior. My work for example is disrupted by the pandemic. I can’t move freely anymore, there are curfew hours, I have to disinfect my work materials every time I work with a new contact person… So many things have changed. Even meetings are now limited to zoom meetings increasing the use of internet.
The internet in the DRC is also big challenge for professionals. It is very expensive but of poor quality. Sometimes we miss important meetings because the bandwidth of Congolese internet providers is insufficient. This sometimes causes delays. But with Covid-19 it has become almost an obligation to adapt to the global digitalization despite the poor quality and exorbitant cost of internet in DRC.
In the research on Covid-19 tests, I hope to discover a range of things about the way of administering the test, about the validity and the value of the results and about the difference between the different forms of sample collection. I also believe that this research will inspire me to do social journalism on Covid-19. I am also interested in debates about fraud and corruption in the testing system fuelled by varying prices for tests.