By Wajidul Islam
COVID-19 in a single person means that the whole human species is at risk.
Statistics reveal that coronavirus is spreading like wildfire all over the world including some worse hit developed countries. The developed nations struggling due to the global pandemic, range from the United States of America to Europe and thus, bearing the brunt of this deadly virus. Likewise, the economies are falling and health systems are struggling across the globe. This whole situation is alarming, but the most worrisome is the spread of the virus to developing countries.
The fear emanates from the fact that the developing countries have too little resources to respond to the crisis as compared to the developed countries. Their economies cannot afford prolonged lockdowns as developed countries could afford with a relative degree of ease. The developing nations lack basic necessities of life. Healthcare is considered a luxury for them whereas clean drinking water and proper sanitation are not available to a large chunk of their populations.
In such circumstances, people in developing and poor countries will be hit hard by this epidemic because of the absence of basic health infrastructure. In addition to the lack of facilities, the population density in most of these nations is also very high. Their family cohabitation structure is the greatest hurdle in the way of physical distancing.
Likewise, the lack of resources to cope with a crisis is a sheer expression of their vulnerability. If a family solely depends on its paycheck for survival and their government cannot afford to provide basic necessities, then closing down of businesses becomes unimaginable for them.
No one can deny the fact that governments in less developed countries should, of course, do their best to implement physical distancing, improve their testing capacities and enhance the mechanism of contact tracing, isolate the vulnerable citizens, and reprioritise their budgetary allocations and divert funds from non-development programmes to public health. But in many places, these interventions will be difficult to implement. Eventually, much of the response will have to come from the outside, for instance, from global financial institutions, developed countries and the international health community.
Such a scenario, therefore, will lead to massive damage in terms of human lives, an increase in unemployment and poverty as well as soaring inflation and finally to economic meltdowns. Such dark clouds are hovering all over developing countries. The repercussions of such a situation will have an adverse impact all over the world.
This impact will result in social upheavals, violence, crimes and massive refugee flows. Furthermore, terrorist groups will also take advantage of such chaos and may spread further anarchy, which will not spare the rich countries as well.
Indeed, it is very hard for the developed countries to pay attention to the hardships of poor countries in these difficult times because this virus has hit all the poor and rich alike. But the cost-benefit analysis makes the fact clear that helping the poor in these circumstances will be beneficial in the long term for developed countries, as pandemic knows no borders. If developed countries succeed in containing the spread of the virus in their countries and it continues to rage in poor countries, then vanquishing it will be short-lived because seepage will allow the return of the virus in the areas where it had been eradicated. COVID-19 virus in a single person in a corner of the world means the whole human species is at risk.
To cope with this situation, it is the need of the hour that rich nations help the poor immediately. If it is not done, the stakes are extremely high.
In this regard, some immediate steps should be taken to mitigate the impact of this crisis. Firstly, international organizations and developed countries have to provide funds to developing countries for medical supplies purchasing or production.
Moreover, budgetary support and debt reliefs should be provided to developing countries. The more active role of the World Bank and IMF should also be very effective because currently, they are barely scratching the surface. They have to act quickly because simply hoping for the best will not help. Quick action means diverting the worse scenarios. Helping others in these crises is self-serving. Timely actions of developed countries will prevent the worst ramifications in developing countries which have not yet been materialized.
Wajid Islam is an MPhil student at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics Islamabad. He has a special interest in poverty and development. He can be reached at: [email protected]