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Foreign Correspondent in lockdown

Foreign Correspondent in Lockdown

Christina Lamb, Aleppo under siege

It’s not the best time to be a foreign correspondent given we can’t travel. For the first time in 33 years of being a journalist, I find myself reporting on my own country and city.

Lots of people have made comparisons between fighting coronavirus and war. From Aleppo under siege to suicide bombs in Afghanistan, I have always marvelled at the resilience people show in adversity. Staying at home watching Netflix is not exactly the same as dodging bullets and barrel bombs of course but we too adjusted remarkably quickly to this strange new normal where people wear masks and dodge each other on the street.

I’ve concentrated on looking at it like a foreign correspondent. How lockdown is very different for people living in tower blocks or for the homeless stranded in our deserted cities with no one to give them money or food – how do you follow government guidance to stay at home if you have no home? Or how a surgeon who normally works on frontlines finds working in ICU wards in a London hospital just as traumatic.

Most of the interviews are by FaceTime and I miss the personal contact but also thank god for technology!

Putting out the paper is a huge challenge with almost everyone working from home. Just a few editors and production staff go into the office Fridays and Saturdays. Deadlines are earlier and the paper smaller as advertising has collapsed and many shops where we sell have closed.

Though with more than 27,000 deaths here, the focus is very much on our own crisis, I’m concerned that we don’t forget the rest of the world – countries like South Sudan which have more Vice-Presidents than ventilators, Afghanistan where people are battling war and disease at the same time or refugee camps like Moria where 1200 people have to share a tap.

One of the joys of my job even in the darkest places has always been finding people doing amazing things from the women hand-washing brigades fighting Ebola in DRC to the windowboxes in the siege of Sarajevo and I think we can learn from them so have been posting inspirational stories to my Facebook.

It’s also not the best time to have a new book out. I think I had the last book launch before lockdown and now I look back and it feels like something from Great Gatsby. One by one I have been crossing off festivals where I was supposed to speak until there were none left. But people have started Zoom events and lockdown festivals.

Christina Lamb OBE (1983, PPE), Chief Foreign Correspondent, The Sunday Times

You can read more about Christina’s work on her website or follow her on Twitter @christinalamb. Her new book, Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Means for Women, is the first major account to address the scale of rape and sexual violence in modern conflict.

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Published: 6 May 2020

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