COVID-19: Fragile economies need assistance - GulfToday

COVID-19: Fragile economies need assistance


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

A prediction by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) that the world could see up to 1 billion infections and 3.2 million deaths due to COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic in 34 crisis-affected countries served by it, including war zones like Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, indicates a grim scenario and swift action is essential to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The matter is serious also because crowded refugee camps in Syria, Greece and Bangladesh have been cited among the most threatened places as the infection spreads around the world.

The refugee camps in countries included in the analysis represent some of the most densely-populated areas in the world -- up to 8.5 times more densely populated than the Diamond Princes cruise ship, where transmission of the virus was up to four times faster than in Wuhan, China.

Beyond demonstrating the infeasibility of extreme social distancing in these contexts and the scarcity of basic health capacity, this suggests that the spreading rate of the virus in significant pockets of these states are likely to be far higher than the current projections suggest.

As David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC, points out, “These numbers should serve as a wake-up call: the full, devastating and disproportionate weight of this pandemic has yet to be felt in the world’s most fragile and war-torn countries. We are still in the critical window of time to mount a robust preventative response to the early stages of COVID-19 in many of these countries and prevent a further perpetuation of this epidemic globally.”

While lockdowns and social distancing will certainly save lives in wealthier nations, direct consequences such as market closures and income losses risk driving impoverishment and hunger in humanitarian settings.

More than 211,185 people have already died worldwide since the epidemic surfaced in China in December, as per an AFP tally. In total, 3,030,246 cases have now been reported in 193 countries or territories.

The United States has the most deaths of any country with 56,253 fatalities.

Italy is the second hardest-hit country, with 26,977 dead. Spain follows with 23,822, then France with 23,293 and the United Kingdom with 21,092.

On another front, first signs that transmission of the virus has again picked up are visible in German official data and that’s worrisome. The infection rate mounts to around 1.0, meaning each infected person passes the virus on to one other.

Africa needs special attention too as the spread of COVID-19 risks devastating countries across East Africa, where food insecurity could more than double in just three months.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that some 20 million people currently do not have secure provisions of food across nine countries in the region: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda.

It is true that compared to other parts of the world, these countries have so far registered few confirmed COVID-19 cases, with numbers still counted in the dozens or hundreds. However, due to their often weak economies and poor health infrastructure they are considered highly vulnerable to the impacts of the mounting crisis.

WFP projections are currently that the number of food insecure people in the region is likely to increase to 34 or up to 43 million during the next three months due to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19. That’s truly a cause for worry.


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