fbpx
AsiaCurrent

“I’d Rather Die From Coronavirus Than From Hunger”

370
AsiaCurrent

“I’d Rather Die From Coronavirus Than From Hunger”

In the first few weeks, many have exhausted a lifetime worth of savings to try and feed their families…This has led to the sentiment, which over time is being harboured by a growing number of people, that they would rather die from the coronavirus rather than hunger. 

370

In the first few weeks, many have exhausted a lifetime worth of savings to try and feed their families…This has led to the sentiment, which over time is being harboured by a growing number of people, that they would rather die from the coronavirus rather than hunger. 

It’s time to seriously bust this fantasy-driven, idealistic and feeble claim that the coronavirus will result in the reduction of the gap between rich and poor, with the effects of the disease impacting high-income countries to a greater extent than low-income countries.

Aside from the fact that I don’t feel there is a universal metric that can be used to make this claim, I feel that the differences in the employment structure, infrastructure quality, welfare provision, and the workforce demographic deem this claim to be invalid. I have no qualms with people who say that the virus is nondiscriminatory in who it targets, yet this does not make it synonymous with the claim that the lasting effects of the virus will also be equally felt.

As a British Citizen with Tanzanian and Kenyan born parents and Indian ethnicity, I will be assessing the different consequences that these respective countries have, and will face as a result of the virus, thus showing the impacts of the coronavirus can’t be assessed to be a mechanism through which the gap between rich and poor will be reduced. 

Since the country had a lockdown imposed on it since 25th March, millions more than usual in India have been starving. The levels of poverty in the world’s largest democracy were dire before the lockdown with 863 million people surviving off less than a dollar a day. Yet the World Food Programme has estimated that a further 130 million people globally, with a large proportion of those being from India, could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the conclusion of 2020, as multiple famines “of biblical proportions” are set to occur. 

In the first few weeks, many have exhausted a lifetime worth of savings to try and feed their families whilst not earning. The fact that they have to queue in lines of, in some instances, over a thousand other people to receive their food parcels has meant that not only have they been stripped of their financial income but also of their dignity too. This has led to the sentiment, which over time is being harboured by a growing number of people, that they would rather die from the coronavirus rather than hunger. 

Compare this to the UK, where almost immediately after the lockdown was imposed UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the furloughing scheme which would protect one in four UK workers by paying them 80% of their monthly wage up to £2,500 if their business struggled to pay their wages, which would help nine million people directly as well as their families and employers, thus protecting a fair proportion of the population from struggling financially, as well as ensuring that businesses can survive the period of uncertainty. What was incredible was the immediacy with which the UK treasury could respond to the challenges created by the imposition of a lockdown. This level of flexibility would not be viable in many low-income countries. 

In Tanzania and Kenya, there have been serious concerns raised as to how the country will cope if the pandemic spreads rapidly in these regions. In Tanzania, at the beginning of March, there were only 38 ICU beds for a population of 57 million and in Kenya, there were only 155 ICU beds for a population of 51 million. Compare this to Britain where there were 4,000 beds for our population of 66 million, showing that from a starting point, Britain was much better suited to cope with the virus. With cases starting to rise in these countries, and concerns about healthcare provisions not yet abated, only time will tell how much these countries will suffer due to infrastructural inadequacies. 

In third world countries, even the basic necessities can’t be provided to families and thus there is a huge reliance on the charity sector. An example of a charity who has helped has been the Lady Fatemah Trust. They have sought to aspirationally tackle the problem, by focussing on the three P’s, Protection of the person’s physical and emotional wellbeing, Preserving their food supply, and Providing a means of income for breadearners during and after the crisis. In doing so not only have they distributed over 12,000 food parcels helping 3250 families in India, 1100 families in Tanzania, and 2,000 families in Kenya, but they have also provided emotional and sustainable economic upliftment too.  

At this point, it may seem that I am painting the picture that the average Briton is faring better off from this crisis than the average Indian, Tanzanian or Kenyan. I am not trying to do so. The types of challenges faced are hugely different. Therefore, it is unfair to claim that the coronavirus will affect high-income countries more than low-income countries if there is little parity between the types of challenges faced. Britain may be better equipped on some fronts, but less so in others. 

In the UK, despite having welfare provisions, the scheme was by no means perfect, failing to accommodate as sufficiently for those who joined their job after October 2019, the self-employed, and those who became redundant during the crisis. This led to an increase in universal credit applications in the UK by 500,000 over a span of nine days, with 70,000 stating immediate cash flow problems. With many of these people being thrown into a fit of worry and confusion about the uncertainty of their income, the household finance index, a metric used to measure perceptions of wellbeing fell from 42.5 in March to 34.9 in April, with levels of pessimism their worst in the country for 8.5 years. 

Moreover, the long term impacts of this virus on UK citizens can’t be underestimated. The £42 billion and growing cost of the furlough scheme, which is a small fraction of the total amount that the coronavirus will have cost us, will need to be settled through a blend of austerity driven measures coupled with increased taxation, therefore plunging Britoners in an era which they very recently thought they saw the last of.

With many businesses on the verge of collapsing, there could be an employment depression felt by workers too. Also with the coronavirus causing many operations, including cancer treatment to be delayed, this in tandem with a spike in mental health-related issues, may claim further lives too. 

Each country will have their own challenges, and the nature of these challenges will be hugely diverse. Therefore it is unfair to assume the coronavirus will act to reduce levels of inequality between high income and low-income countries.

Now more than ever, we need your support…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

Menu