The hardest-hit countries in the coronavirus outbreak are places where wars left the people vulnerable to disease. One country we list might surprise you.
I have to say that I’ve been extremely fortunate during this global pandemic. I’ve worked from home for years, so I was already set up for it, and the lockdown hasn’t disrupted my income.
Supermarkets and drug stores are open. We haven’t had the shortages or the hoarding here in Canada that disrupted people’s lives in other countries.
The sit-down restaurants are closed, but that’s forced me to cook more and eat healthier. I can’t see my friends in person, but we’re in touch online. We’ve always tended to keep in touch through social media anyway.
44% of Canadian Households Have Lost Work
I realize that not everyone is as sheltered from the impact of the pandemic as I’ve been. According to an Angus Reid poll, 44% of Canadian households have lost work because of the coronavirus, and a further 18% anticipate losing their jobs soon.
Worst of all, over 100,000 Canadians have contracted the virus. That’s lifted the number of deaths to 8,568, many of them among our elderly in nursing homes.
Even so, Canadians are fortunate not to live in one of the hardest-hit countries facing the pandemic. The UN has identified 63 countries facing either a humanitarian or refugee crisis or that are vulnerable in other ways.
Humanitarian or Refugee Crisis or Vulnerable in Other Ways
For this story, we’ll focus on the three hardest-hit countries and share what the plans are to help them. It’s important to understand that the pandemic is much more than a health crisis.
Public health issues are vital, but the COVID-19 crisis has four other dimensions. It also has economic, humanitarian, security and human rights implications.
The first of the worst-hit countries we’ll look at is Syria. Like many people in the Middle East, the people of Syria were inspired by the Arab Spring.
People of Syria Were Inspired by the Arab Spring
They rose in rebellion against their dictator in hopes of changing their lives for the better. Tragically, their country has fallen into devastation from nine years of civil war.
The war has displaced more than half of Syria’s population from their homes. That’s about 13 million people who’ve had to seek refuge, either inside or outside their country.
Wars inevitably spread both disease and famine, and the Syrian civil war is no exception. About 90% of Syrians are now earning less than two dollars per day.
90% of Syrians Earn Less Than Two Dollars per Day
At the same time, the country is facing runaway inflation. Food prices have soared by over 200% in less than a year.
Half of Syria’s hospitals are out of commission. Fighting forces have wrecked many of them beyond repair.
The devastation includes two of the top hospitals in the country. In Homs, the population lost a 400-bed national hospital. A 600-bed complex in Eastern Aleppo now lies in ruins. It was home to a nursing school. It also provided clinics in ophthalmology, pediatrics and nephrology.
No Social Safety Net in Syria
There’s no social safety net in Syria. All those people with virtually no income have to fend for themselves.
There’s also not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to go around. Dr. Akjemal Magtymova is the WHO Representative in Syria.
He had this to say about the shortages. “Even in healthcare settings, what I have witnessed crowds of patients in the facilities which are – there is – no use of masks, even among some of the health medical personnel, because of a lack of PPE.”
Syria Has Had Only Nine COVID-19 Deaths So Far
Mercifully, Syria has only had nine COVID-19 deaths so far. Still, experts believe that the worst is yet to come and that the country is woefully unprepared to deal with the pandemic.
The second of the hardest-hit countries on our list is Yemen. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the Yemeni people are also the victims of a long and cruel civil war.
Their country has been at war for more than five years now. The government of Yemen and its allies are defending against Houthi rebel forces.
Yemen is Also Facing Famine
Yemen is also facing famine. UNICEF projects that Yemen will have 2.4 million malnourished children by the end of the year. These are almost all children under five years old.
Beyond that, UNICEF warns that as many as 30,000 children could come down with severe acute malnutrition over the next six months. That’s a life-threatening condition.
Just like in Syria, about half of the health facilities have shut down. The people face chronic shortages of healthcare workers, drugs and medical gear.
Ten Million Children Lack Access to Water or Sanitation
About 7.8 million children haven’t been attending school. Almost ten million children lack access to water or proper sanitation.
Coronavirus cases have been spreading across Yemen. The mortality rate among those who test positive for the virus is roughly 25%. Johns Hopkins University reports that 293 Yemenis have lost their lives to COVID-19 to date.
Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief, warned that “At a minimum, we can expect many more people to starve to death and to succumb to COVID-19 and to die of cholera and to watch their children die because they are not immunized for killer diseases.”
Worst of All the Hardest-Hit Countries is the United States
Of course, by far, the worst of all the hardest-hit countries, in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths is the United States. The US has been at war for almost nineteen years.
As a result, military spending has drained government coffers, leaving the population without universal healthcare coverage or adequate social services.
Forty million Americans live below the poverty line. Cutbacks forced more than thirty US hospitals to shut down last year. Nurses across the country are protesting the lack of personal protective equipment.
US Spends More than Next Ten Countries Combined
The US spends more on its armed forces than the next ten countries combined. More than half of the US government’s discretionary spending goes to the military.
Underfunding has left more than 28 million people in the country without health insurance. More than 30 million Americans have no access to safe drinking water. More than 500 thousand people in the US are homeless.
Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 50 million American children have been missing school. Experts project that these students may only retain 70% of their reading skills and less than half of their math proficiency.
Sixteen Million American Children Are Malnourished
Over sixteen million American children are malnourished. Due to a lack of proper science education, parents haven’t adequately vaccinated over 100,000 children against life-threatening diseases.
Security forces in the United States are heavily armed and lack discipline. Police kill over 1,000 Americans every year.
Racial minorities make up 2.5 times more deaths at the hands of security forces than whites. Police shot thirteen unarmed Americans on sight last year. Mass uprisings have broken out across the country, calling for the reduction or elimination of US security forces.
Two Million Americans Are in Prison
More than two million Americans are in prison. The United States ranks 38th in the SIRI Human Rights Data Project ratings.
As with our other two examples, military engagement has left America vulnerable in terms of economic, humanitarian, security and human rights conditions. Those factors, combined with weak governance from its executive branch at the national level, have left the country devastated.
Americans have endured almost ten million confirmed cases of the disease.
More than 125,000 have died from COVID-19. Three months after the government finally declared a state of emergency, the US is experiencing record high daily rates of infection.
US Experiencing Record Daily Rates of Infection
Yemen and Syria are cooperating with the World Health Organization and receiving support from it. Strangely, the authoritarian national government in the US has severed its ties with the WHO. This disconnect has left Americans with no access to international aid to provide desperately needed relief.
It may seem trite or ironic to talk about the United States in these terms. After all, the United States is the largest economy in the world.
Still, we have to bear in mind that the US also has a vast population. America has the third-largest population in the world after China and India.
Government Wastes 3% of Economy on Armed Forces
As a result, the World Bank ranks the US economy at tenth in the world on a per capita basis. The real issue, though, is that the American government wastes 3% of the economy on its armed forces.
On a per-capita basis, the US is second only to Israel in its military spending. Since a great deal of Israel’s military spending comes from the American government, that seems like a distinction without a difference.
I honestly believe that America is on the road to ruin. This pandemic isn’t the root cause of the decline.
United States Resembles War-Ravaged Third World Country
The United States now resembles a war-ravaged, third world country because of its bizarre priorities. America has nineteen aircraft carriers, but no universal, public social programs.
The pandemic should be a teachable moment for Americans. Hopefully, they’ll look beyond their borders and discover how other cultures set their priorities.
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.
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