How COVID-19 is affecting developing countries and the underprivileged

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someone holding up a sign that says "healthcare is a human right" at a protest

The Coronavirus outbreak has caused havoc around the country with 61 confirmed cases (on the 15th of March 2020). But South Africans have every reason to worry. With the first case of COVID-19 only being reported on the 5th of March, the number has skyrocketed. This is South Africa is going to struggle: 

 

  1. South Africa’s poverty rate

55.5% of the country lives in poverty. These are people that can’t afford to see a private General Practitioner. They live below the breadline and for many, can’t even afford to pay basic living expenses. They are most vulnerable to the virus because of this. Even when someone has symptoms of the virus, many can’t afford to see a medical practitioner to seek necessary treatment or advice. 

 

  1. The state of public hospitals 

South Africa’s public health care system is horrendous. Our public hospitals sometimes don’t even have enough beds to accommodate those seeking medical attention on a regular day. So, with the outbreak of the Coronavirus, this may bring about a bigger issue than many realize. Public hospitals don’t have much staff and in countless amounts of them, only have one GP on call who has to attend to hundreds of patients a day.

 

  1. South Africa’s informal settlements

Nobody chooses to live in an informal settlement. It's for necessity, not by choice. The government’s Department of Human Settlement’s job is to assist those that live in these informal settlements and build government homes for them which are not only safer but is a human right. These informal settlements are built in crowded clusters where proper sanitation isn’t really a reality. Because of the crowded nature of these settlements, the spread of diseases like Coronavirus is much easier than in formal settlements with sanitation and running water. 

 

COVID-19 has brought so much fear to South Africa and the world alike. Seeing all of these above mentioned points first hand made me realize what danger this poses for developing countries and its people. I think it’s time we stop worrying about stock markets and start worrying about how the Coronavirus is going to affect people around us who don’t have the privileges that you and I might have. In a time of crisis is when we see the gap between the poor and the rich. This time, a lot clearer. 

This isn’t a time for racism, it's a time for unity. I speak on behalf of everyone when I say this, we call for the attention of world leaders to step up to this challenge. This is where those leadership qualities you were displaying during your campaign come into play. Your people are shouting for your help. Listen and act accordingly. With efficiency. Every country in the world has something to contribute to combating COVID-19. Bring your contribution forward.

We deserve better and the Coronavirus will not be the end for us. Not if we lose our pride and grow our empathy.

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