COVID-19 and The Poor Population of The Globe

by Rajkumar Singh - 14 April, 2020, 12:00 3087 Views 0 Comment

It is the first time that poverty has increased globally in 30 years. A report estimates a 400-600 million increase in the number of people in poverty across the globe and the new pandemic with the impact of the virus poses a real challenge to the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty by 2030. Our findings point towards the importance of a dramatic expansion of social safety nets in developing countries as soon as possible and – more broadly – much greater attention to the impact of COVID-19 in developing countries and what the international community can do to help. By the time the pandemic is over half of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people could be living in poverty. About 40 percent of the newly poor could be concentrated in East Asia and the Pacific, with about one third in both Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. As of 9 April 2020, the number of coronavirus across the globe has increased to 1,485,981, with 88,567 deaths and 330,782 recoveries. COVID-19 can be contracted from and by the rich and the poor indiscriminately but the poor are more likely to go untreated, which poses a critical public health risk to the entire community. Societies must come together to ensure that all people – regardless of their wealth or privilege, as well as gender, sexuality, age, nationality, migratory or any other status – are able to get tested and treated for this disease.

Major impacts on the poor population

The economic impacts of the outbreak are already being felt around the world, and the poor are being hurt disproportionately. To prepare for times of crisis, nations must look to redistribute wealth to ensure all peoples have adequate safety nets, and no one gets left behind. In this case, while many don’t have the exposure to the disease by staying inside or working from home, low-wage workers, those in the service industry, and struggling families are often unable to take these preventive measures due to the lack of a safety net of sick days or savings. Social distancing and isolation measures are effective methods of preventing the spread of the disease, but the economic and human impacts of these strategies must be recognised and mitigated as best as possible, particularly for low-income individuals and families, and those who are most vulnerable. Similarly, undocumented migrants who fear legal retaliation or deportation are unlikely to report their symptoms or seek testing and treatment, posing an increased health risk to all. These individuals should not be stigmatised, but provided with safe access to necessary medical attention. We must provide access to healthcare for all, regardless of their immigration status and free from any form of reprisal, in order to protect our communities and recognize the right to health for all. As COVID-19 spreads around the world, putting pressure on strong and weak health systems alike, we should also recognise the need to balance the UN’s critical work with these public health concerns.  In the face of this challenge, we must now find alternative and innovative ways to move agendas forward, exchange ideas, and hold each other to account. As an organic body, we commit to working within the revised timeline of events and encourage all parties to seek out new ways to facilitate and amplify the voice of civil society actors, including children and young people, and support those working on the frontlines of this outbreak.

Global impacts of COVID-19 on poor

COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, but it must not take our voice away. International solidarity and strong international cooperation is essential to protect the lives of all people, in every community and every country, and uphold their rights. Ultimately, this is not only a threat to global health security but also a threat to democracy and humanity. We must take action now to ensure that no-one is left behind. The extent and severity to which the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will impact is still unknown, but it is expected that the crisis will devastate the world’s most vulnerable people.  The virus is already disproportionately impacting the poor in wealthy countries, where the most known cases are concentrated. Experts are urging the world to prepare to lend extra support to low-income countries to address the pandemic. COVID-19 cases are more likely to go undetected or to be under-detected in developing countries that have fewer resources available to tackle a pandemic. Countries with large poor populations including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan have confirmed few cases, but have been slow to respond to the threat. In addition, preventative care and health education are less accessible to low-income people who are more likely to have pre-existing conditions and die from it. People living in poverty are also more likely to hold insecure jobs and cannot afford to stay home sick from work. Countries are enforcing lockdowns to promote social distancing and contain the virus, but such precautions are more challenging in developing countries, like India, with crowded cities and slums. People living in small, confined spaces with multiple people are not able to isolate themselves as easily to help contain the virus.

The rich and the poor- two different world

The problems of the haves differ substantially from those of the have-nots. Individuals in developing societies have to fight mainly against infectious and communicable diseases, while in the developed world the battles are mainly against lifestyle diseases. Yet, at a very fundamental level, the problems are the same-the fight is against distress, disability, and premature death; against human exploitation and for human development and self-actualisation. While there has been great progress in the treatment of individual diseases, human pathology continues to increase. Sicknesses are not decreasing in number; they are only changing in type. The primary diseases of poverty like TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS-and the often co-morbid and ubiquitous malnutrition-take their toll on helpless populations in developing countries. Poverty is not just income deprivation but capability deprivation and optimism deprivation as well. While life expectancy may have increased in the haves, and infant and maternal mortality reduced, these gains have not necessarily ensured that well-being results. There are ever-multiplying numbers of individuals whose well-being is compromised due to lifestyle diseases. These diseases are the result of faulty lifestyles and the consequent crippling stress. But it serves no one’s purpose to understand them as such.  The struggle to achieve well-being and positive health, to ensure longevity, to combat lifestyle stress and professional burnout, and to reduce psychosomatic ailments continues unabated, with hardly an end in sight.

We thus realise that morbidity, disability, and death assail all three societies: the ones with infectious diseases, the ones with diseases of poverty, and the ones with lifestyle diseases. For the haves, the need is to seek well-being, positive health, and inner rootedness; to ask science not only to give them new pills for new ills but to define and study how negative emotions hamper health and how positive ones promote it; to find out what is inner peace. Those in the developed world have the means to make life meaningful but, often, have lost the meaning of life itself; those in the developing world are fighting for survival but, often, have recipes to make life meaningful.

Rajkumar Singh
Author is Professor and Head, University Department of Political Science, B. N. Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India. He can be reached at

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