COVID-19: the great equalizer and empathizer?

 

In my lifetime I have never felt this connected to and at the same time disconnected from the world. Every time I cannot believe we are living this reality, I watch the news or check Social Media and see everyone is going through the same. But are we really? Who are we relating to when feeling we are in this together? Thinking of the world and the Covid-19 virus, my mind keeps going to development countries. What disaster will await them, when in this developed world we are already suffering so much and are trying to adapt to a whole new daily life.

“For nearly three billion people living in poverty and without enough clean water, jobs and access to basic healthcare – and for millions already facing years of malnutrition, disease and conflict – the coronavirus will be a lethal killer,”

Paul O’Brien, vice president Oxfam America.

Never would I have thought that seeing groups together today would give me the shivers. Fear is what leading a lot of us now in our decision making. We feel a crisis, a possible very big disaster is upon us. People at the top of our country and our hospitals, are doing everything they can to prevent one from happening. A privilege in itself, knowing, or at least feeling, that there are knowledgeable people putting in their energy for the best for us. Living in a developed country, good health care is a right for everyone. I have never had to worry about not getting care when sick. People are talking about the hospital doom scenario, in case the virus gets out of control. The scenario where doctors have to choose between patients entering the hospital when there are not enough hospital beds. It is their nightmare, for their motivation behind this job is offering all people a chance to survival and therefore the same chance. We feel like we are losing sight of this privilege a lot of us have always taken for granted.

We miss each other. People who live in the same country feel like a whole world away. We are not used to have limitations. We have a passport we can normally travel everywhere with and live in a country with infrastructure connecting us to every possible village and country ahead. Will feeling (safely) locked and limited make us feel for places where the reality is much worse, even in times of no virus, or only make us feel sorry and worried for ourselves? Time will tell what humanity means in the world of today. Who is we.

The Covid-19 wave

At this point, April 10th 2020, there are 210 countries who have reported a total of 1,617,576 confirmed cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 and a death toll of 96,939 deaths (Worldometer, 2020). The virus is spreading like a wave, moving and crashing on the ones who will have the hardest time to cope. Developing countries are getting ready to tackle this health crisis with extremely limited resources. Complete water, sanitary and hygienic services are only available at few healthcare facilities in developing countries (Walton, 2020). Let alone the sanitary circumstances outside hospitals in the whole country. These limited hygiene facilities make them vulnerable and spreading of the virus will be fast. The awareness of the governments of their inability to survive a big outbreak, is making them take precautions everywhere. Many developing countries are already in lockdown and it is only expected for more countries to follow.

Economic aid?

The numbers of Covid-19 cases in development countries are still relatively low at this moment. Though the impact of the virus in western countries already echoes back to development countries. In Bangladesh, more than 1 million garment workers have been fired after orders from western clothing brands were cancelled or suspended. When working to feed yourself and your family the next day, there is no extra money to live from. The photo at the beginning shows the Indian woman Manisha Uke. She has run out of money and groceries after losing her job since the unprecedented lockdown [Kunal Purohit / Al Jazeera]. While wealthy nations are able to support their people with big economic aid packages, developing countries lack the resources and funds to anticipate the same (Purohit, 2020).

“This virus will starve us before it makes us sick.”

Micah Olywangu, a taxi driver and father of three from Nairobi, Kenya, who has not had a fare since the Covid-19 lockdown closed the airport, bars and restaurants.

Lives, rights, opportunities and dignity

UNDP (2020) expects that $220 billion will be lost in income for people in development countries, due to the measures to stop this virus. Nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost. Oil-exporting countries and tourism-driven countries will suffer the most. If the commodity prices and tourism stay low, this crisis will become deeper and last long-term (Purohit, 2020). The precautions are taken to prevent a crisis from happening, but because of the current situations in the countries a crisis is inevitable. If it’s not one with the Covid-19 virus, it’s because of these economic and social effects. It is estimated that more than half of the global population has no access to social protection. This will result in an impact on education, human rights and for the ones at the bottom the basic food security and nutrition will be in danger. All the work for economic improvement and other gains in these countries might be lost and time might be put backwards. Lives, rights, opportunities and dignity are on the line, more than they already were (UNDP, 2020).

A new perspective

The situation and expectations for the future of developing countries, amidst this crisis, are very worrying. Knowing that this crisis is far from over and realizing that recovering will be just as big of a challenge, is a sad expectation for the future. Are we able to relate and feel a ‘we’ in living in the same crisis, but with such different circumstances? My hopes for the new normal after the virus is that we can relate to and empathize with each other. The world has never felt as small as today. In this sense it is an equalizer, seeing how the whole world is affected by it. The circumstances in which we are facing this virus are very different. With these low and high levels of development in healthcare our chances of survival are depend on where we are. Though the possible realization that we are no different than any country when it comes to getting a virus as this that is hitting us all, might be the start for a new perspective on the world.

 

 

Reference list

Walton, B. (2020). Healthcare Facilities in Developing Countries a High Risk for Coronavirus Transmission. Circle of Blue.  https://www.circleofblue.org/2020/world/healthcare-facilities-in-developing-countries-a-high-risk-for-coronavirus-transmission/

UNDP, (2020). COVID-19: Looming crisis in developing countries threatens to devastate economies and ramp up inequality. https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2020/COVID19_Crisis_in_developing_countries_threatens_devastate_economies.html

Worldometer, (2020). Countries where COVID-19 has spread. Retrieved on April 10, 2020, from: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/countries-where-coronavirus-has-spread/

Purohit, K. (2020). India COVID-19 lockdown means no food or work for rural poor. Aljazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/india-covid-19-lockdown-means-food-work-rural-poor-200402052048439.html

Suleymanova, R. (2020). Coronavirus could push half a billion people into poverty: Oxfam. Aljazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/coronavirus-push-billion-people-poverty-oxfam-200408192048642.html

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *