COVID-19: World Will Struggle for Many Years to Come ?

Dr. Sabi Kaphle

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge challenges— uncertainties to the global populations and a lot of stresses. All the sectors are adversely affected— education, employment, economy, and health, resulting into poverty and social conflicts in many countries, especially developing ones that have scarce resources, and much higher population is at risks.

We have started observing the direct impacts on food supply and agriculture aggravating the issue of food insecurities in many regions. Small community enterprises are affected, and the local tourism has shut down leaving the most vulnerable groups of communities with multiple issues to sustain everyday life.

Managing the outbreaks of COVID 19 has been a challenge for many developing countries where testing services aren’t easily accessible to the communities; many have died without knowing the cause and deaths will continue to rise in coming days. Countries, which are generally staggering with higher mortalities, sessional communicable diseases and disasters, are hit hard by the rapid transmission of virus.

We have seen public health measures recommended to control the spread of the COVID 19 – physical distancing, use of face masks, hand washing, stay-at-home/work-at-home (where possible), isolation of infected individuals and quarantining their contacts have been effective. School closures and economic lockdowns that involve non-essential business closures also have been effective in developed countries where resources, support and systems are working hand on hand together.

These measures are difficult to implement for developing countries due to the numbers of reasons – housing structure, joining family system, the food practice, requirement for daily work to support family, lack of technology and communication resources, inadequate access to water and sanitation resources, and difficult supplies of everyday living materials and medicines.  

Additionally, the public health system in developing countries are compromised by the lack of equipment required to care for COVID-19 cases and also by the lack of insufficient infection control training of healthcare workers. Services are mostly available in the cities or in central locations where regional, rural, and remote areas are out of access to basic care. In such environment of global pandemic, the population lacking access to care have no options.

Even after a tough lockdown of the country, we have seen India as an example of the highest concentration of cases. Sadly, India is also a home to the largest population of hungry people with one-third of the world’s malnourished children, and the burden of COVID 19 is adding to the complexities of addressing the existing issues for health and well-being. The rapid rise in cases in a country like India is linked to the population size and existing co-morbidities like tuberculosis, diabetes, and heart disease. Now, the mental health problems have surged significantly.

A recent report of a rapid assessment of socio-economic impact of COVID 19 in Nepal conducted by UNDP highlights that “the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains, shut or threatened the survival of small and informal enterprises, and made people highly vulnerable to falling back into poverty through widespread loss of income and jobs.” The increase of social and economic and health problems in developing countries needs serious attention of the government and partner organisations to implement tailored responses before the death toll becomes unmanageable.

Without urgent and context appropriate strategic responses, the situation in developing countries will get worse and the livelihood of most vulnerable communities will be impacted severely. There must be access to information, services, and resources to all people for recommended public health measures to come in effect. Unfortunately, many communities in developing countries are far behind with the reach of essential services and there is only little that the government can do to manage the impacts of COVID 19. This leads to the dreadful future of extensive inequalities which the world will struggle to address for many years to come.  

Author’s bio: Dr. Sabi Kaphle is a Public Health Lecturer at CQUniversity in Melbourne, with more than 20 years’ experience in the health sector in Australia and internationally.

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