Today is the National Day of Reflection - a day for the nation to remember the lives of those who were lost to the Covid 19 Pandemic and to support those who have been bereaved.
The statement below is from our CEO and Founder, Yvonne Field, and will be read aloud this evening during a service at the Church of God and Prophecy in Birmingham - Coming Together in Hope ll: A Service of Reflection for Black Communities Affected by the Covid 19 Pandemic
'I am sending my apologies for this evening’s service as I attend my youngest brother’s funeral today. David Field caught Covid in May 2020; when he was hospitalised and put on a ventilator, we thought we would lose him back then. He had several complex underlying health conditions and struggled over the next three years with respiratory and other health challenges. He passed away unexpectedly in January. We also lost our eldest brother Linford Stewart last February; two difficult bouts of Covid masked lung cancer; a non-smoker but builder by trade, asbestos filled buildings were his normal place of work. A terminal diagnosis in March 2021 led to his death in February 2022. I remembered him at the first of these services last March. The grief that stems from the untimely death of my eldest and youngest brother all in the course of one year, is very hard to bear.
It sometimes feels that the Covid-19 pandemic was a bad dream; indeed, a nightmare; an out-of-control global virus that took so many lives. As we move from pandemic to accepting Covid as part of daily life we should also make take time to remember and reflect on its continued impact. Families across the UK are still reeling from the devastation caused by 150,000 unexpected deaths through at least three variants: Alpha; Delta and several different Omicrons. Up to 17% of people infected have reported symptoms of Long Covid and at its peak in March 2022, 1:13 of people were infected. Omicron’s variants accounted for just under half (48.2%) of all identified second infections between June and November last year. However, Covid is not just a sad fact of our former lives; it is clearly still with us; deaths have now increased from 3.5% of all deaths end Feb 2023 to 4.1% of all deaths early March 2023 (ONS Statistics, March 2023).
Black communities have been particularly affected; research showed higher risks because of frontline health and social care work as well as self-employment and/or have underlying health conditions. We not only had more deaths in hospitals proportionally but also in care homes. The far-reaching economic impact has also seen mid-life men dying disproportionately and the resultant loss of income affecting children and families more (LSE,2021). It is clear that the deep impact of bereavement, job loss, loneliness and on our mental health and well-being will last for decades to come. The National Day of Reflection not only allows us to remember the losses during Covid but also to reflect on all those who have passed, to support those who are grieving and to connect with others to help in coping with the impact of grief.
There is now the added burden of a cost-of-living crisis which has seen families struggling to heat homes and put food on their tables. A huge increase in the number of people queuing at my local Seven Day Adventist Church twice weekly food bank in North London post Covid, offers a stark reminder that all is not well.
The Ubele Initiative continues to give support to organisations supporting communities as well as to communities impacted by Covid-19 directly. We developed Bayo (Joy has found us in Yoruba) as a digital directory that hosts Black-led initiatives, community groups and mental health services. We still support the Majonzi Fund with small grants to bereaved families. We have also produced a film called Our Grief: Black, British and Bereaved which has its premier in London this evening and will be screened in Liverpool, Nottingham and Wolverhampton. Hopefully we can bring it to Birmingham.
We are also part of the lobbying group collaborating with the Families of the Bereaved putting pressure on the government to ensure that structural racism will be part of the national Covid inquiries investigation. Earlier this week we received assurances from Baroness Hallett leading the enquiry that it will be included, and that expert evidence will be commissioned. This is an important landmark for us following our ‘We Need Answers’ campaign which attracted over 30,000 signatures in 2020; we have to ensure that our experiences are heard and given serious consideration; our work is far from done.
As we gather as a community to remember your loved ones affected by Covid-19, I wish you moments of peace and comfort and look forward to joining you in 2024.'
Yvonne Field, Founder and CEO, The Ubele Initiative