How are Filipino Domestic Workers in Hong Kong Coping up with COVID-19?
The adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic are already recognizable for most of my readers and for myself, but it doesn’t mean that we have a deep understanding of each of its repercussions to all the people in the world.
In Hong Kong, where approximately 210,000 Filipinos are working, there is a huge dilemma when it comes to the important information regarding COVID-19 because more of them are in Cantonese or English language. Nherieda, a Filipino domestic worker, said, “There is limited information on COVID-19 written in Tagalog. I mainly receive them from the Philippines. I would like to find more reliable sources of information. I am afraid of the disease, but I want to be a responsible person to protect myself and others.”
According to Filipino domestic worker named Bessie, who has been working in Hong Kong for nine years, “With cases increasing here, it’s hard to tell if we are infected or not. Previously, I would receive information about COVID-19 online. It is better to learn about it face-to-face, with more interaction. I want the facts, like, is COVID-19 an airborne disease?”
Each of their employers has the responsibility to inform them about the disease, but not every employer might be willing to do so. Hence, the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been distributing informational materials regarding COVID-19 in Tagalog. An MSF team arrived in Hong Kong in late January to reach out to several minorities including the elderly, street cleaners, migrants, asylum seekers, domestic helpers, and homeless people.
Aside from reaching out to minorities in the streets of Hong Kong, the MSF team has also been organizing educational activities with a special question and answer concourse allocated to respond to important concerns of their attendees. MSF nurse Eliza Chang is responsible for COVID-19 control and prevention. She said, “Everyone has a role to play in maintaining a healthy environment, protecting not just yourself but others too, and must be taken together to ensure maximum effectiveness.”
During one of their sessions, an elderly participant said, “I am very confused and afraid of infection. Wearing two masks at the same time can protect me, even if I know it is not correct.” Another person said, “I disinfected my hands until they were about to crack. I don’t worry about myself, but I worry about my baby.“
More than any other physical health and body concern, it’s their mental health that mostly succumbs to the pandemic. Hence, MSF is also there to guide them through human connections and face-to-face interactions. Gert Verdonck, emergency coordinator of MSF in Hong Kong said, “By being there with vulnerable people in the society, we can help ease their stresses and anxieties, answer their concerns and doubts, as well as listen to their worries.”
I appreciate what the MSF does in helping the minorities cope up with the COVID-19 pandemic. While they are not available here in the Philippines, they provide a huge refuge to our respective domestic helpers in Hong Kong, who are one of the heroes of our economy. They deserve the utmost care and attention, as they are also worried about the Philippines, their motherland, and their families residing here. The MSF is coordinating with WHO and other ministries of health in providing information to minorities, as well as training health workers and hospitals regarding infection control.