By Abrita Kuthumi
Image credit: The Telegraph
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world by storm and disrupted the daily lives of people everywhere. Countries have shut down public spaces, postponed international sporting events such as the Olympics, canceled graduations, transitioned to working remotely, and more. However, for developing nations, the pandemic has done more than just impacting the health of individuals and adding more inconveniences—it has rocked the socioeconomics of a fragile system at its core.
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Ready-made garment factories have been the economic pillar and development pathway of Bangladesh. The industry employs around 4.5 million workers and accounts for 84% of the exports that travel from Bangladesh to developed regions, such as the United States and Europe. However, COVID-19 has hurt the supply chain of this industry by influencing the buyers to cancel or postpone product orders, resulting in about 1 million female garment workers being temporarily or permanently laid off. Before the pandemic, the percentage of Bangladeshi workers who earned more than six dollars a day sat at 15%. Now, with COVID-19 in full force, the economic impacts have been even more detrimental to their livelihood as widespread income cuts were implemented unexpectedly and abruptly.
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The reality of the six-feet-apart social distancing guidelines do not apply well in India, a nation where 40% of the urban population dwells within slums. Given these living conditions, where most of the people do not have clean water and private bathrooms inside their homes, it becomes a necessity to leave their quarters for communal resources. Staying at home also raises other risks, such as starvation due to the lack of income. Many face the difficulties of having to choose between working while confronting the dangers of contamination or staying safe in isolation but being unable to feed themselves.
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In Brazil, the recorded number of COVID-19 cases has hit a staggering 1,188,600 people and the death count sits at 53,830 people currently. Due to a lack of testing that directly impacts reporting, a common theme among developing countries such as Brazil, those numbers may be even higher. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has not helped lower the virus count as he has contradicted his health minister’s advice to stay home due to the negative impacts on the economy. These health and political struggles have hit poor communities the hardest, because not only are there not enough beds to treat COVID-19 patients, the hospitals are too far away for people to access in rural areas. This explains the pattern of rapid increase in COVID-19 cases among communities with less than 20,000 residents. To combat this, there are regular citizens, such as Buba Aguiar, who are helping Rio’s poorest favelas by delivering COVID-19 kits and food packages.
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Devastated by disease, hunger, and war, Yemen has been pushed to its limit. Now, with the COVID-19 virus adding to its vulnerability, it has become one of the most urgent humanitarian crises of the world. The country was already struggling with access to necessities such as food and health. Over 80% of the population, of the nation's 24 million people, did not have a stable source of nutrition, and diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and cholera plagued the country even before COVID-19. Yemen is not equipped to handle the current pandemic because the war destroyed 3,500 medical facilities through air strikes, leaving the healthcare system operating with scraps.
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When the South African government created the Black Economic Empowerment policy as a response to COVID-19, an act that would provide aid to majority black-owned small businesses, it gave rise to racial tensions that are deep-rooted in the country. Although the government did not continue with this idea, it created an intense response. Right-wing groups such as the AfriForum responded by claiming it was an “attack on white people and business.” In another episode of racial tension, the South African government was criticized for planning to isolate COVID-19 patients- who were mostly foreigners and white- on Robben Island, the place where many African National Congress leaders were put in prison during apartheid. The Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema made a statement saying, “Our government loves … to keep white people happy and safe, even at the expense of Africans.” The Daily Maverick newspaper reflected on the current events and wrote, “The lockdown, in its umpteenth day, is taking on some typically South African characteristics: it’s turning into a low-grade race war.”