SHAFAQNA- Early in the global pandemic, there was talk of the virus as the “great equaliser”. After all, it was infecting people in rich and poor countries; prime ministers and factory workers. But it didn’t take long for that narrative to crumble, as the impacts of coronavirus turned out to depend heavily on factors like class, race, and socioeconomic status.
Yemen: The worst of COVID-19 may have passed in Aden
It also depended on location, and a country like Yemen – already in the midst of what the UN calls the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” – proved the perfect breeding ground for the virus. Years of war have torn apart the health system, people do not trust authority, and economic collapse meant many people simply could not afford to stay home. While the worst of COVID-19 may have passed in Aden, the story of its outbreak, and of those who did not survive, serves as a reminder that while we have all had to deal with the virus, global shocks do not hit everyone equally.
Afghanistan: Coronavirus testing is highly centralised
Coronavirus testing in Afghanistan is highly centralised, meaning samples from hard-to-reach places, including Taliban-controlled areas, have to be sent to laboratories concentrated in major cities a day’s travel away. Specialised local clinics meant to reach women were turning coronavirus patients away. “We don’t have the capacity to take in potential COVID-19-infected people,” one doctor said.
Burkina Faso: Pandemic has played a part by reducing people’s limited purchasing power
What happens when the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic hits a country already engulfed by violence? In Burkina Faso’s case, a hunger crisis. The number of people in need of emergency food aid tripled this year to 3.2 million, with famine conditions observed in one part of the country for the first time in more than a decade. Attacks by extremist groups are primarily to blame. But the pandemic has played a part by reducing people’s already limited purchasing power, Thenewhumanitarian.org reported. Doctors and nurses around the country have struggled to cope with the number of malnourished children, as journalist Sam Mendick found out on visits to local hospitals in August. “Sometimes the kids say they’re hungry, but I don’t have anything to feed them,” one man from the country’s conflict-hit north told Mednick. “I just tell them it will be okay and to go to sleep.”
Mozambique, Sudan, and Ethiopia: facing a credit crunch amidst the pandemic
Several countries are struggling to keep up payments on their debt in the face of plunging revenues and rising humanitarian needs. The finance world calls it “debt distress” and it was worsening even before the pandemic. Mozambique, Sudan, and Ethiopia are among the countries facing a credit crunch amidst the pandemic and their other crises.
We’re not out of the woods yet, with the identification by genomic scientists of more-transmissible COVID-19 variants adding to concerns going into the new year. Vaccines are being rolled out, but it will likely be a long time before they reach vulnerable people in conflict zones and the world’s poorest nations.