Corona pandemic has hijacked the space for pressing global concerns. Prior to the outbreak of this deadly disease, the discussions on world affairs were dominated by conflict, hunger, poverty, state hostilities, refugee crisis, terrorism, economic slowdown, rise and fall of regimes, and environmental degradation. The curve of corona pandemic across the globe has put a cover over globally important issues. Undoubtedly, Covid 19 is an unprecedented challenge but simultaneously it is hiding matters that merit attention, as well as intervention.
In 2018, the world had an estimated population of 821 million people undernourished. In simple words, one out of nine persons has not enough food to live a normal healthy life. The prevalence of undernourishment is very high in African continent prevalent at an alarming 20 % of its population. There are millions who go hungry to bed and wake up hungry in the morning as well. Ironically, the rich countries are struggling with obesity among their population wherein very young children are having health issues due to overweight!
According to one report of United Nations Organization (UNO) there are seventy million people around the world who have been forced out of their homes due to conflict. Rendering them stateless, these millions of refugees are suffering every day for want of basic needs – shelter, food, safety and more importantly a hope to return to their native places. Daring all weather conditions in makeshift tents, children, women, elderly and sick, all are undergoing agonizing experience of hardships.
The internationally agreed poverty line criterion considers any person with daily income of less than two US dollars as poor. Accordingly as per this estimate, 10% of the world population is living in extreme poverty. Majority of the poor people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty persists along with a package of problems. Disease, hunger, exploitation, discrimination, and injustice to mention a few are accompanied by poverty to add to the miseries of the poor men.
Safe drinking water is a vital necessity. Millions of people across the world suffer heavily to enjoy free access to safe drinking water service. A WHO report estimates that around 2.2 billion of world population has no access to safely managed drinking water services. Consequently contaminated water is considered as one of the main reasons for spread various fatal diseases. Unclean water poses greater life risks. Every year 1.5 million children die due to diarrhea. More than half of the world population lacks access to safe sanitation facility.
Cancer is considered the second leading cause of deaths worldwide. In 2018, around 9.6 million cancer related deaths took place. One out of six deaths at world level is due cancer.
Points to be noted
The global challenges mentioned above provide a fact check to know and understand the gravity of non-pandemic concerns. Have such issues been highlighted to raise the awareness of world community to come forward and take a united stand to fight them? Around 70% of the deaths caused due to cancer occur in low and middle income countries. How many millions of lives could be saved if early detection and medical diagnosis is freely accessible and affordable for millions of poor who succumb silently?
Why has refugee crisis lingered for decades and the world community remains dumb and divided securing their economic and military relationships? The world powers displaying reckless rage and flexing military muscles have rendered people homeless. Conspiracies to destabilize enemy corridors only pile up the plight of civilians.
These issues that are touching the spine are real. Poverty is real. Refugee crisis is real. Hunger is real. Cancer as a fatal disease is real. Child labour is real. Human trafficking is real. The consequence of all such catastrophes is the huge cost of human lives, those lost every year. Those involved and accountable for these crises are unmoved and pretending to be unaware. It is immoral and unethical for such monsters to pose as saviours and custodians of humanity.
Corona has generated a global wave of philanthropy cutting across differences of region and religion. Sufferings have brought global leaders together to extend assistance and cooperation to overcome the challenge posed by corona pandemic. The search for vaccine against the deadly virus has already begun in many countries. All such endeavours are aimed at saving human lives.
All human lives need to be saved. Conflicts must be resolved to save lives. Hostilities must end to save innocent live. Poverty must be ended to save lives. Hunger should no more haunt the naked human skeletons. Food must be made available for hungry to save live. Access to health care facilities and medicine should be made easy and affordable. Avoidance to address these bigger challenges only exposes hypocrisy. It is time to widen our understanding and ponder over the world matters that really matter – other than corona!
Bilal Kaloo Assistant Professor, South Campus University of Kashmir