This year has been one that we won’t forget in a hurry and, let’s be honest, 2021 doesn’t look like it is going to be much better – at least to begin with. The global pandemic has brought the world’s richest economies to its knees, with shops and the hospitality sector forced to close for months amid the risk of spreading COVID-19.
However, as much as we have felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, just imagine how bad it is in developing countries that do not have the same level of healthcare. In the third world, where basic necessities such as food and clean water come at a premium at the best of times, the spread of the virus has been nothing short of a disaster.
In areas of poverty, where thousands of people are crammed into modest locations, social distancing simply isn’t an option. Shantytowns, where families live on top of one another, do not have the option of keeping a safe distance from one another – never mind when they leave the home to support their household.
What COVID Means for the Third World
The spread of COVID-19 will mean the loss of thousands, possibly millions, of innocent lives that never stood a chance. With limited medical facilities and professionals to tackle the diseases prevalent and circulating through the population in a pre-COVID world, they simply do not stand a chance with the coronavirus.
We all saw the desperate images coming out of countries such as Italy and Spain at the height of the first wave back in April and May, where hospitals were running at and, often, overcapacity due to the admission of patients with COVID-19. No one knew what we were dealing with back then and, even as we know much more about the virus that appears to have originated from Wuhan, China, resources remain limited as to how we tackle and treat it. There have been discoveries of several drugs, already readily available, that reduce the risk of fatality but, as yet we await an effective vaccine and/or treatment.
While the discoveries of the effects of drugs, such as remdesivir and dexamethasone, may be great news for large parts of the world, the third world will lose out to developed countries that can afford to stockpile drugs to use for their own. This means that, in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, people will not benefit from the same level of access as a patient admitted with COVID-19 in Europe or North America.
The Rate of Testing
Particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, lots were made of the rate of testing with comparisons made between many countries. The likes of Germany and South Korea were widely seen as global leaders for their rates of testing and how they were handling the virus, while others such as the United Kingdom were criticised for low levels of testing which did not provide a clear indication as to the prevalence of the virus and its rate of transmission in the community.
Many African countries continue to suffer from a lack of testing. While confirmed positive cases may make it seem as though the outbreak hasn’t hit the continent as badly as other areas of the world, the data quite simply is not reliable. Some countries have conducted less than 8,000 tests per million people – 550 times less than the UK conducted in July.
The World Health Organisation’ (WHO) recommended target is for countries to have a positivity rate of 5% or under for testing, otherwise, the pandemic is out of control. According to official figures, Somalia’s positivity rate in July was 32%. It is clear that, no matter how difficult some of the richest countries in the world may be struggling, the problem is greatly intensified elsewhere.
How is the World Helping?
One thing that we have seen during this crisis is humanity looking out for another and that has extended across borders. There has always been great charitable support for those living in third world countries in poverty-stricken areas because of droughts and conflict. Unsurprisingly, that urgency has been multiplied due to the coronavirus crisis.
While many Islamic charities have always asked for Zakat and Qurbani donations that can be passed on to help those living in poverty, providing them with essentials such as food, warm clothing and a safe place, thousands of bodies continue to push for extended help to Africa and other areas in dire need of assistance.
Governments around the world have agreed to support Africa during the pandemic, while the WHO pledged back in February to support the continent on a joint coronavirus strategy.
Moving Forward in the Pandemic
At the time of writing, scientists agree that we are seeing a second wave of the virus with many countries quickly re-imposing social restrictions. This is in the hope of keeping the rate of infection (known as the R number) below one, which would mean that, on average, one person passes the virus on to less than one other and the outbreak, thus, decreases.
It is expected that the effects of the pandemic will be felt long after it is over, a statement that rings true around the world. With millions of lives already vulnerable in the third world, the effects will be vast and great – likely resulting in families becoming homeless either through the loss of a member of the family or employment. Children will be at greater risk of exploitation as, too, will women through petty offences and more serious crimes such as human trafficking.
Sadly, there will be opportunists that will take advantage of the crisis which is why the world must continue to move in the same direction. We are all treading uncertain ground, the likes of which have never been seen in our lifetimes, and we will never forget these times, wherever we were.