Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Ethiopian student in Wuhan shares 'coronavirus lockdown' experience

Ethiopian student in Wuhan shares 'coronavirus lockdown' experience


The search for knowledge motivated her to leave her native Ethiopia and to make the journey to China. She has been there for the past four-and-half years.

With an economics degree plus six-months proficiency in Chinese, it was time to return home to family and friends in Ethiopia, then the rampaging virus rared its head.

Now she is stuck, like hundreds of fellow Ethiopian students and many more other African nationals who were living and studying in Wuhan.

Wuhan is main city of China’s Hubei province where the coronavirus was discovered weeks ago. From social media to evacuation hopes and keeping family calm in the face of the storm.

She is Soliana Aregawi. This is the story of Soliana. After a social media (Twitter) post detailing the plights of living in a lockdown, she granted Africanews an exclusive interview on Wuhan, the lockdown and what it looks, feels and sounds like.

Coping with lockdown in Wuhan

I keep a journal so that keeps me busy, I also read books that I’ve saved up when I find the time, and watch movies. I also update my family and friends on the situation here.

Think of it this way: I do most of the things people do when they have a day off from work, the only difference is I’ve been doing it every day for the past 12 days (as at January 2).​

Desire to be evacuated and conditions

I am open to evacuation if the proper measures are taken such as quarantine for 14 days and getting tested for the virus. The reason why is; I’ve already graduated I have no reason for staying. Add to that, the fact that schools have postponed the opening day for students who will continue their studies.

The longer you stay the more exposed you might be to the virus taken the proper measures from our country I think evacuation is the right approach.

How Soliana spent her 4-and-half years

I first studied at Wuhan university for 4 years for a bachelor’s degree in Economics then I studied Chinese for 6 months at Central China Normal University. I am a self-supporting student.

The African contingent in Wuhan

I’m not sure how many African students are currently in Wuhan but it is definitely more than a 1000. For Ethiopians alone, we are above 300. Wuhan is a melting pot we have students from Ghana, Gabon, Morocco, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, South Africa and much more.

A typical normal day for Soliana

I would wake up at 6:00 prep for school, leave my house at 7:30 and head to school. I have classes from 8:00 to 12:00. After class, I hop on the subway and head to a center where I give English lessons. I’m not the type of person who likes to stay indoors so I’m always doing something with my friends.

Biggest fear and surviving a lockdown

I have everything i need in my house so I don’t go out but I would say my biggest fear would be getting infected.

These are z people fighting z virus. They’re wifes, husbands, mothers… Doctors are z unsung heroes of a nation. Let’s take this moment to acknowledge z doctors in Wuhan. They’re risking their lives everyday to save others. #WuhanCoronovirus #武汉加油 pic.twitter.com/vQlTCvbzLd

— Soliana Aregawi (@SolianaA) February 4, 2020

Keeping family and friends updated

My parents call me twice a day. My friends also contact me frequently. I reassure them I’m fine and update them on any information i have. I am fine so i don’t want create any unnecessary worry plus the Chinese are doing their best to contain the virus.

China putting its best foot forward

For example Wuhan university has taken measures like providing masks and disinfectants. They have also opened an online program on Wechat to buy some groceries and they will deliver it to the dorms.

As for other schools i’m not sure what measures are being taken i’ve heard some schools have opened a canteen for their students but i’ve also heard some schools are not providing what is required of them so some students have complained saying they are short of supplies.​

Ethiopian solidarity keeps us going

Lastly, i would like to say Ethiopians here have been helpful to one another and the union executives are also doing the best they can. They are bombarded with questions and phone calls as the frustration is rising from students.

It would be helpful and would ease the burden for most us if we get a clear direction of what is next from our government so we can better equip ourselves for what is to come.

Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa
Digital journalist

View more