The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly shook up the world revealing capacities of different countries to deal with an international crisis. This has brought up a question of why nations are forced to choose between starvation or illness?
While a global pandemic does not selectively choose nations based on their economic standing, the response is heavily influenced by their country’s economy. A case in point, Malawi with the majority of the population as daily wage labourers, the country is battling the question of whether to impose a lockdown to protect the health of citizens or to avoid this lockdown to protect the livelihoods of people. People know that their health is at risk but if they lose their daily wage, then they are left hungry. This leaves the country with only two options either to choose to battle illness or to battle starvation for their citizens.
This depicts how the economic status of the countries stifle their decisions forcing them to sacrifice one priority area such as health to protect another priority area such as livelihoods. Hence, Malawi introduced cash hand outs to the poorest population. The funding package of $37 million was approved by the World Bank to cover payments of 172,000 households with approximately $50 for 4 months (BBC, 2020). While this is an effort taken by the government in urgency, we know that there is a dire need for a long-term and sustainable planning for such economies where more than half of the population have to work everyday to eat.
In many other countries too, while everyone is affected in one way or the other, those living on daily wage, below the poverty line, or refugees have been hit the hardest. With an already bleak situation prior to the pandemic, this has propelled them further into hunger and helplessness.
While we may not have answers to these questions at the moment, we do need to consider this in our future agenda and program planning. As a world we are witnessing how vulnerable groups are stripped of choices in many instances and do not even get a chance to fight for their lives because of society’s structures working against them. This brings the question of how do we deal with vulnerable sections of the society going forward?
BBC (2020). ‘Malawi’s cash handouts and the row about a coronavirus lockdown’, 29 April. Available from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52471276 [25 May 2020].