What More Are We Left To Face Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic — Is There A Ray Of Hope?

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The lethal coronavirus does not take into account the sex, social status and race of the people it attacks, but it surely is in favor of the affluent, to a certain extent. It clearly has put forward the many differences between the classes of our society.

The underprivileged face the worst side of this virus. Low-income people neither hold the monetary ability to take proper precautions or receive treatment if exposed to Covid-19, nor can they, by any means, maintain the strict isolation protocols.

Attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) looks like a dream impossible to turn into reality as Coronavirus continues to increase the gap between the poor and the rich, disrupting the social and economic balance. Human rights do not seem to exist anymore as millions across the globe are left famished, homeless, and at a horrific state where even pure drinking water is unavailable to them. It is vital for us to act on it and give them their fair share of living rights.

In the short span of the past few months, the hope of a coronavirus-free world is seen to be fading away. Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, we were struggling to deal with the great disparity between the affluent and the underprivileged, but the setback amid the crisis has made it even tougher for us to attain SDGs.

Coronavirus, according to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s Director-General, is “The defining global health crisis of our time”.

António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) has added, “Once we are successfully done battling out the difficult times of Coronavirus, we will have two options to choose from. One, we should be able to take better precautionary measures and face future crises that comes our way. Two, we remain adamant and decide not to learn from our mistakes, which could again put us in a crucial state as present times.”

According to the fresh findings of the Asian Development Bank, a potential loss of US$ 16–43 billion was round the corner for the Asia-Pacific region, minus China. The present governments are recommended to prioritize and cater to the needs of the underprivileged and keep a sharp eye on the SGDs.

Coronavirus has taken away the lives of around 4, 19,090 people across the globe by 11th of June, 2020. The masses were dying even after the strict isolation protocols. Although these rules set by the governments worldwide are a necessity, it has had an ill impact on SDG-8 (employment and economic boom) and SDG-9 (infrastructure development, industrial activities, and innovation). Workers away from their home countries laid-off off their jobs, and the daily wagers’ incomes faced a slump. With earnings equivalent to zero, they barely were able to put food on their tables and lead a balanced life. This current situation of these jobless masses makes it a lot more difficult to attain the two SDGs.

In almost all countries, healthcare comes at a price. You either receive treatment if you are insured or straight-up pay for it. These policies act as a mere obstacle for the poor to receive treatment, even if it’s the basic form of healthcare. And these are the people who are much more exposed to the deadly virus when compared to the rich. As private healthcare organizations continue to grow and take over the entire industry, gaining access to treatments becomes even more costly and sometimes impossible for the underprivileged. This overall situation is seen to tamper SDG-3 (Good Health & Wellbeing).

The world had recently seen a shortage of face masks and gloves. While they are restocked in the marketplace, increased use of these precautionary tools has led to a rise in pollution in the environment. Their disposal has resulted in a surge in carbon emissions, affecting SDG-12 (Responsible Production & Consumption).

To add more to the disruption of SDG goals, the increased usage of hand washes, soaps, and other medicinal hand rubs have resulted in increased contaminants in the water, further affecting SDG-6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG-15 (Life on Land).

In order to keep up with the lockdown legislations put forward by the governments, educational organizations have been facing temporary yet prolonged closure. Teachers are using social video calling platforms like Zoom and YouTube to continue teaching students. But online learning is not viable for everyone as the low-income group does not have the financial ability to afford smart devices for their children’s education. This has not only affected SDG-4 (Quality Education), but has also created a knowledge gap between the rich and poor students.

As stated by Dr. Nilanjan Ghosh, Director of Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, office work relies 10 times more on digital networks after the outbreak of the pandemic as service providers have switched to providing their respective services online, and continue to keep in touch with their customers. This shift from physical office work to online communication is the outcome of the closure of business organizations globally, and economic growth has been frozen.
Ghosh also adds that a lot of the service sector workers, despite belonging from a developed economy, might find it difficult to cope with the digital environment. This may be due to varied reasons like not having access to smart devices or not having the same opportunities as their coworkers. Whatever the reason, it will go on to disrupt SDGs 1, 2, and 10, revolving around major world crises like inequality, hunger, and poverty.

Ghosh has also put forward his sympathy for the underprivileged of India, where the Supreme Court failed to address their basic necessities. This went against the SDG-1 goal, which is concerned with peace, fair-mindedness, and justice. Justice AP Shah showed his dismay regarding the activities of the Supreme Court and said he was “disappointed” with it. However, the various steps taken by activists and other prestigious professionals, like lawyers, have somewhat helped to aid the low income, vulnerable citizens of India. Filling the gap between the rich and the poor is crucial, and “none should be lagging” in the right to freedom and their fair share of human rights.

Regional Secretary for the Asia and Pacific Region at Public Services International (PSI), Kate Lappin, stated how Covid-19 could have a disastrous effect on economic development. To her, the SDGs was an important element that could help us and the economy bounce back to its normal state. The various economies across the globe could work together using their unique strengths to ensure efficient and proper resource allocation and distribution.

She repeated Winston Churchill’s popular words, “Never waste a good crisis.”Kate believes that this pandemic is a big hurdle to overcome but will eventually make us stronger and better prepared for the numerous other downfalls and crises that we are yet to face in the future. She also recommended governments who run countries that are controlled by private healthcare services, to take a closer look at their functionality and make sure these services could also be enjoyed by the low-income groups. Medicines in countries prioritizing private healthcare systems are comparatively more expensive than the public healthcare service providers. Thus, coping with private healthcare expenses becomes a not so pocket-friendly task for the underprivileged.

Declared by UN’s Assistant Secretary-General, Kanni Wignaraja, “Till the world and its activities go back to being stable the SDG goals will continue to be harder to achieve. Thus economies would have to balance out between the “new normal” and still look for ways to improve their economic performances.” The Green New Deal, combined with Development Justice incorporated in the economies, could help to attain the “new normal”.

The Green New Deal and Development Justice are two fresh methods aiming for a Feminist Fossil Fuel Free Future. This futuristic idea would enable our world to have zero gender discriminations, and the amalgamation of proper political, social, and economic decisions will ensure proper distribution of resources by eliminating climate change. Development Justice consists of 5 crucial changes in the economy — Social and Gender Justice, Accountability to People, Economic Justice, Redistributive Justice, and Environmental Justice.

Lippin evaluated how a fall in nationalization and government expenditure had deteriorated the services of public healthcare and made it difficult for the poor to receive proper treatment and stay healthy. Basic necessities of life like water, education, healthcare and electricity come at a high price, making it difficult for the underprivileged to gain sufficient access to them. The private healthcare organizations rely on making money from the ill health of the people, and the thought of profiting off of people’s health should be banished in an economy, stated Lippin. The governments should try their best to allocate financial resources and distribute them fairly in the economy, especially amongst the poor, so that public welfare is prioritized and supported.

She also added how Environmental Justice was possible via increased usage of clean energy, which could be done via innovation and require a shift in technology. The emission of carbon was also to be brought under control, and these two could only be possible via synergistic participation of the economic, social and political groups.

To meet the increased demand for food across the globe, Kate recommends taking up the practice of Agroecology. Agro-ecological food processes help humans, livestock, plants and the environment to work in harmony and lead to the proper distribution of food, bringing minimal harm to the available land and water.

For sustainable development, food sovereignty is a must. It leads people to get food on their plates that are acceptable in their culture and safe for consumption via processes that cause minimal or no harm to the environment. Food sovereignty also leads people to develop their personalized agricultural methods producing their own food.

The SDG goals require a lot of changes in the environment and can only be achieved by our hard work. However, the sheer amount of work and hurdles that come in our way should not act as a setback or demotivate us in any way. Attaining SDGs to be able to live in a better performing economy should act as a driving force for us to make the necessary changes.

“Wise economic policies combined with accurate government spending and distribution in the public healthcare sector and other precautionary schemes can enable us to put up a tough fight and win over this pandemic besides minimalizing pollution levels and unemployment in the economy. These steps by the government and the positive mindset to accept better change can lead us to achieve overall sustainability.” This boost of encouragement added with advice by Kanni Wignaraja is our strong and only way out of this horrendous global crisis.

Originally published at https://biotrap.co on October 27, 2020.

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