The pandemic cannot be defeated with selfishness

United Nations headquarters in New York (Photo: Pixabay)

Of all the pronouncements made over the past weeks, the Director-General of the World Health Organization has made one important point that we can’t afford to look past. He said that COVID-19 can only be defeated through a united global effort. Without a vaccine, the virus will remain amongst populations anywhere and the rest of the world will remain at risk. The virus will harm the least developed countries the most and lead to catastrophic consequences.

Indeed, there are increasing worries that this crisis will lead to civil unrest in the least developed nations in particular, with the Financial Times reporting on 21 April that the “UN and other institutions fear hunger in the least developed economies could lead to violence and mass migration.”

The fight against virus must include developed nations

A lack of external support would lead to catastrophic consequences for the least developed countries and for the developed nations too.

Indeed the developed world is not immune from the virus and its outcomes; Spain, Italy and the UK have undoubtedly suffered from the crisis – to give just one example, the Financial Times reported that 3 million British people are going hungry due to the lockdown. 

We must ask ourselves if the social and economic infrastructure of developed nations is flagging under the pressure of COVID-19, how can we expect infrastructure to hold up in the least developed economies, which has been struggling to meet the demands of growing populations before the virus?

Global cooperation will allow us to end COVID-19 

In the absence of an effective strategy that encompasses the least developed countries that don’t have the means to battle and the sufficient funds, COVID-19 shows to all humanity that future sporadic outbreaks and similar pandemics are likely to occur causing disasters all over the world. Yet despite this clear interconnectedness, many world leaders fail to acknowledge the inseparable fate of the developed and the least developed countries in the fight against COVID-19. 

In this crisis, as in others, we have seen that nations’ natural reaction is to protect their own. On a global level, it has led to a selfish state of affairs with some countries attempting to secure exclusive access to medicines and other vital medical supplies, even the food supply. Some would say these countries are in no position to provide aid to their neighbors when so many of their own citizens are suffering physically and financially. At first, we could sympathize with this approach. Because at times of a crisis it is easiest to act reflexively. But COVID-19 showed us that this approach will not lead us to the solution but rather to an unsolvable problem. While we focus on protecting ourselves over helping others, the virus knows no borders and classes. It hits every nation at home.

Rare Voices among the Global Fight against COVID-19

Humanity is a big family, no one is immune from what happens to one another. This big family needs a deep and unconditional comradeship. The international community and world leaders should take to heart this old Turkish saying “we must not sleep with a full stomach while our neighbor is starving” during this crisis. 

But, unfortunately, we can’t hear anything other than a few ideas and rare voices in this course.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s recent call for “the creation of a fund” and setting up a task force “to find a vaccine, a cure and a plan to revive the global economy” failed in response.

The European Union and its partners announced an international pledging to raise €7.5 billion in initial funding to develop and deploy effective diagnostics, treatments, and a vaccine, but this focuses on the symptoms of the virus. The EU ignores the root causes of the problems of the least developed countries that are the starting point of viruses that threaten human health and welfare, and they are looking for a temporary solution until the next crisis.

On the other hand countries’ motive in sending aid to others is more for political influence.

The World Leaders Owe Humanity a Solution 

World leaders need to urgently come together for the good of all and develop a strategy that fosters co-operation between developed and the least developed countries to combat COVID-19 and similar outbreaks.  They should improve poor nations’ ability to respond to outbreaks of the virus, identify ways to leverage resources at critical points, strengthen institutions, and to look further than just eradicating COVID-19. 

Their success, however, lies in solidarity between world nations. 


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