Overcoming the Pandemic as One World
Over the past few months, COVID-19 has gradually developed into a global pandemic, with its effects almost unbearable for even health systems in the most developed countries. With the virus now having reached six continents, many developing countries, and even war zones and refugee camps, are beginning to report first cases.
To combat this health risk, many countries are asking citizens to wash their hands frequently and reduce social activities, some even announcing citywide lockdowns and home isolation to stop the spread of the virus. However, for many developing countries – where water supply is unstable, medical and hygiene equipment is on low supply and living conditions are basic – to adopt such preventive measures and hygiene management strategies are extra challenging. Things are even worse in refugee camps, where a shortage of resources means that their inhabitants are especially susceptible to be infected. In this pandemic, when even the developed areas are so close to a total collapse, the disastrous outcomes that might befall the poorer regions are perhaps beyond what one could imagine.
COVID-19 not only brings health risks, but also secondary impacts, such as hunger and unemployment, which are expected to hit vulnerable communities harder than the disease itself. With health systems overwhelmed by the pandemic, up to 30 million children are at risk of disease and death from preventable causes such as measles, malaria and malnutrition. Even though they may not be infected themselves, children would be exposed to different threats due to a lack of care if their caregivers were hospitalised, isolated or died. On the other hand, economic recession has led to mass unemployment, pushing more people into extreme poverty, hunger and financial difficulties. Furthermore, as families are confined at home and worried about their livelihoods, adults often express their negative emotions on their children who may endure verbal and physical violence, and even sexual abuse. In these few months, calls to child and domestic violence hotlines around the world have increased by 20 to 200%. In its recent Aftershocks – A Perfect Storm report, World Vision estimates that in the next two years, as parents struggle to provide for their children, at least four million more girls may be married off and become victims of child marriage.