At the offset of this world pandemic, I kept on thinking how the Corona would impact the most marginalized members of society. Now there are few articles tackling the topic, but they are mostly discussing what the impact of the Coronavirus will be in economic terms for those that are already struggling. But what about in terms of their exposure to the virus?
As the World Health Organization insisted that we should wash our hands well and often, wear a mask and stay at home whenever possible, I kept on thinking what would happen to those that did not have access to clean water, didn’t have a roof or the means to isolate themselves.
And we are not talking about small numbers here.
According to the WHO, in 2017 there were about 2,2 billion people with access only to contaminated water (not treated properly). Or in other words, without access to safe water at home. How can we expect those 2,2 billion to follow the WHO recommendations to wash their hands often and properly to reduce the risk of being infected by the virus?
While the western world has been complaining (including me) about the voluntary or forced home confinement, I was thinking of the millions of homeless people around the world. I saw the news on how in India people were forced to stay at home, sometimes with brute force. And I recalled -as I frequently do- an image that will never leave my mind of a family living on a bed just outside the walls of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (India). That bed was “their home”. They slept, ate, and socialize on that bed, which they only left when it rained (to seek refuge under one of the parked cars). How will the authorities enforce the home confinement in the millions of homeless around the world? They are the most vulnerable and exposed.
And I was thinking about all this, while I read some articles in which it was argued that this virus did not discriminate between rich and poor. Because rich people were also dying as a consequence of the virus.
The difference is, rich people (and by that I do not necessarily mean the super-rich but also us, those with a good standard of living, living in a very decent house, with running water, means to purchase masks and disinfectant) in general, have a choice to protect themselves and their families.
Millions of people around the world would love to. But they do not have a choice.
Not only because they may lack a roof or water, but also because they cannot afford not to go out for a living, even at the risk of being exposed. If they do not go fishing or go to the market to try to sell their products, their family starve.
I wish more people could keep this in mind when they complain because they cannot yet go with friends to have a beer in a bar, travel as much as they would like to, or organize parties..as I have seen in the Spanish newspapers over the last weeks.
Somehow, I feel we have lost perspective on things. And forgot what really matters.
Staying at home, respecting the social distance, protecting us and our families is not only an obligation. Its a choice.
At least, we have one.