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: COVID-19 can only be defeated by 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 most the least developed countries and lead to catastrophic consequences.
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.”
Fighting the Virus Will Begin and End in the Least 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?
The Global Epidemic Cannot Be Resolved By Being Selfish
In the absence of an effective strategy that encompasses the least developed markets that don’t have the means to battle and the sufficient funds, COVID-19 shows to all humanity that future sporadic outbreaks and similar pandemic 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 only protect ourselves by not helping others, a virus with no borders and classes beats every nations at home.
Rare Voices among the Global Fight against COVID-19
COVID-19 showed us that humanity is a big family, no one is immune from what happens to one another. This big family needs a deep and unconditional comradeship and international community and world leaders should take this old Turkish saying “The person that sleeps with a full stomach while their neighbor is starving is not one of us” to heart 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 recently proposed a solution, in which he called for “the creation of a fund” that “countries who have the money will provide”, including setting up a task force “to find a vaccine, a cure and a plan to revive the global economy” but 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, (https://global-response.europa.eu/index_en) but this focuses at 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.
During the battle with COVID-19 pandemic, countries sending aid to others act more likely with the motive of political influence.
The World Leaders Owe Humanity a Solution
World leaders need to urgently come together for the good of all, to develop a strategy to combat COVID-19 and similar outbreaks that fosters co-operation between developed and the least developed countries and eliminate imbalances of rich and poor nations ability respond to outbreaks of the virus, identify ways to leverage resources at critical points where it is most needed and create long-term strategies, strengthen institutions, to look further than just eradicating COVID-19, this is the debt of world leaders towards humanity and their own nations.
The only way they would be successful is to enforce a solidarity in cooperation between world nations.