The world has been propelled on a fast track journey of dealing with Covid-19 across the developed world where the pandemic has created chaos and mayhem of astounding proportions. The faint light that gave hope was the fact that this was happening in the developed regions of the globe where people do have access to health services, adequate housing, well stocked warehouses, communications networks, financial assets and funds (even if diminishing under economic stress), and so forth. Now Covid-19 has reached into the areas which the learned persons write of as informal settlements.
The Onslaught on Vulnerable Masses
Let us be real, just as Covid-19 is real. The virus seeks out human beings regardless of their social status or financial assets. Humans means everyone. Now Covid-19 is smashing through the neighbourhoods of the poor, villagers, slums, refugee camps, migrant camps. These are all people that if they are luckily, have a subsistence life style. This lifestyle functions on a daily basis of hand-to-mouth. We work, we eat. We cannot social distance, there is no physical space for that. We cannot wash our hands all day, we have to walk to fetch our water or there is a limited supply of water in our community, and that is not clean. We quarantine, we die before Covid-19 gets to us.
Pandemics are desperate situations, but Covid-19 only kills a small percentage, Starvation is our pandemic and it threatens every man, woman and child on the Earth. We are all destined to die.
In the developed world, the infection rates are declining, and the severe lockdowns that were imposed are slowly being eased. This is good. It is positive for the developed world. But for us, on the other side of the globe, the backside of the world, the Covid-19 is only making its way through our neigbourhoods and villages. The death toll due to starvation will far exceed that of the Covid-related deaths in the developed nations.
This is not belittling the staggering death tolls of the nations with advanced technology, medical services, infrastructure and even charitable organizations that are feeding their poorer people. But our numbers will be catastrophic because we cannot eat.
The Danger for Africa
Let us discuss the African continent – Sub-Saharan nations, in broad terms. Trying to implement social distancing so as to flatten the curve of the infection rate are not viable options. Population densities are too great and living conditions are too poor. The healthcare systems are so limited and deficient that such an outbreak of Covid-19 will cripple services over night. There is not just a shortage of medical equipment but also medically trained healthcare workers.
What kind of shortage, in 2013, it was ascertained that there were 14 healthcare workers per 1000 people in Europe while in Sub-Saharan African nations there were only 2.2 healthcare workers. As for equipment, developed nations did not have adequate supply of ventilators. The developing nations have far less. It is reported that Nigeria has less than 500 ventilators for a nation over 206 million people. The Central African Republic (CAR) has three ventilators for a population of under 5 million people. That is a ventilator per 400,000 Nigerians and 1 per 1.6 million people in CAR. The governments of these African nations do not have the financial operation capacity of the developed nations to take action of pandemic proportions. In addition, the weak leadership and corrupt authoritarianism have also weakened the nations.
Every Sub-Saharan nation is resilient. Nigeria and other west African nations have been well tested with the Ebola virus. But this time the threats looming over the continent are deadly hunger and deadly infection. These two threats will also weaken the social structure further with potential civil unrest and violent protests. These threats are not short term but could be prolonged for much longer time frame of years.
The Rough Road Ahead
Future productivity of these nations could be significantly affected in terms of labour and capital. Job losses could be even more precarious in the future especially with nearly 50 percent of the population being under the age of 30 years. The social structure of society could be weakened further with increases in domestic violence, increases in earlier pregnancies and marriages, and with even less access to education for the younger generations.
The economic prospects could also be very dim with nations unable to meet corporate and sovereign debts because of very substantial foreign investments on the past decades. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have acted on request, and secured suspended debt payments by the poorest of developing nations. Nations such as China have offered medical donations.
The economic measures that need to be extended by the developed nations to help undergirth these developing nations is critical for a global survival scheme. Without private and public support from the developed nations, these nations could spiral downwards very easily. This will require major changes in the mindset of the commercial – economic sectors to devise viable solutions or options that can be made available to developing nations.
This current pandemic is a crisis of global proportions with the potential to totally devastate sectors of the developing world. It will require a concerted, cooperative approach, with a new, holistic vision towards the whole international community so as to avoid a massive humanitarian tragedy. It is already a crisis across the globe, and every nation is striving to salvage the level of social and economic attainment that existed pre-Covid-19. If the whole globe cannot restabilize, the developed world will also suffer from a significant kickback from the less developed nations if they fail to restabilize.
It sounds a message of doom and gloom, but human beings are very resourceful, creative and innovative. Everyone just needs to focus their mind on global unity.