ABU DHABI, If there is one thing that the year 2020 stood out for, it was its uniqueness, said the English language daily ‘Gulf Today’ in a commentary on Friday.

Unique because one leviathan of a pestilence – the coronavirus – threw the whole planet out of gear. Normal life was upturned so badly that many wondered if their lives would ever get back on the rails again.

Over a million perished due to the pandemic, millions more were infected, and many more died due to lack of care or indifference on the part of the authorities.

Millions of jobs were lost, airlines – and by extension planes – were grounded, factories shut. What’s more, the lockdowns made the situation worse. It was as if the mind were in a perpetual bind, as though forcibly bound by rules they could well do without given half a chance.

Normally, people look forward to the New Year with great anticipation and enthusiasm. But this time there was only one resolution: the coronavirus should go away.

With everyone going around wearing face masks, the entire world seemed to resemble an operation theatre, with the Maker orchestrating operations for our safety.

Words that nobody had heard before had become the ‘in’ thing, the new normal. Terms like social distancing, lockdown, PPE, had become the catch-all phrases for everyday conversation.

Regarding conversation, all talk revolved around the pandemic. It is not difficult what the gist of the talk could be: when the lockdown would be unlocked, when travel would be normal, where touristy hotspots and beaches would not be out of bounds; when you could just pick up your suitcase and head for the airport without having to worry unnecessarily about virus tests or stifling quarantine regulations. Who wants to end up as self-styled Robinson Crusoes locked up in a hotel room staring at either the blank walls or out of the balcony, or watching the telly for hours? There is one major cause for concern in the New Year, though, and it is just not the coronavirus. It is malnutrition. And the coronavirus has only served to exacerbate the nutrition crisis.

If the start of January last year saw news of the coronavirus slowly gaining momentum, this New Year starts with a grim forecast from a global organisation.

More than 10 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, South Sudan and Yemen will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) said.

“For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe,” Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

Unicef has appealed for more than $1 billion to support its lifesaving nutrition programmes for children in countries affected by humanitarian crises over 2021. It remains to be seen whether the countries concerned step up to the plate.

However, all is not lost. As Joan Tan, a Filipino business development executive in the UAE, says: “2021 will be a relief from COVID-19 because of the vaccines and improved treatments. If 2020 surprised us, 2021 is the year of acceptance and acknowledgment of the new normal. We would still observe social distancing and wear masks every day. Overseas travel would still be limited and we would learn to appreciate more local life and scenery. Remote work and online learning shall continue beyond the pandemic. There would be more groundbreaking discoveries in technology, science and health, easing us all from this pandemic.”

Indonesian student Shofia Masturi sums it up best: “I expect to be better and optimistic. Despite the difficult 2020, I am grateful to the UAE where everything is handled efficiently and effectively, thus, easing our mental burden. May we all become better and stronger.”


Source: Emirates News Agency