Obviously, there are no real winners of the Coronavirus pandemic, unless you count supermarkets and Amazon who seem to be doing quite well at the moment. What I mean by my deliberately provocative title is that there are those who are fairing much worse with the virus and others who are predicted to suffer as the virus spreads across the world.
There is quite a lot of data showing how those in older age groups are more at risk of dying from Covid-19, those with underlying conditions are more at risk and in addition to this those in certain ethnic groups appear to be more at risk.
In the UK, it has been estimated that black Africans are 3.7 times more likely to die than would be expected, even when taking into account their geographical location and age. Health conditions, living conditions and occupation may all be contributing factors. The socio-economic situation, access to health care and deprivation clearly play a role, however, very little is being said about the biological fact that those with darker skins absorb vitamin D much slower and vitamin D’s role in the immune system. Political correctness seems to be dictating that we cannot talk about factual biological differences between races that don’t make one race better than another. Dark skins absorb vitamin D more slowly but they are better at protecting from harmful UV rays.
Dr John Campbell has been arguing the importance of vitamin D and the immune system on his YouTube channel and posted a study from Indonesia which suggested that vitamin D deficiency could make patients 10 times more likely to die of Covid-19. Obviously, this is only one study and much more work needs to be done but asking your doctor whether you should supplement your diet with vitamin D, especially if you have dark skin or if you don’t get much sun, seems like a good idea.
Another issue Dr Campbell has been highlighting on his YouTube channel is the inequality between developing and developed nations in their ability to respond to the virus. For example, Italy has 80 ventilators per million people compared to Kenya which only has 0.5 ventilators per million. The UK has 28 doctors per million people whereas the Democratic Republic of Congo has less than one per million. In Nigeria, only 4 out of ten people have access to running water which is going to make handwashing quite difficult. On top of this, underlying conditions such as TB, HIV, Malnutrition and Malaria are widespread across Africa.
In addition, David Nott, a trauma surgeon from Wales who has volunteered in crisis and conflict zones, says there is only a short amount of time before the most vulnerable parts of the planet are hit by the coronavirus. In a paper to the Lancet, he said: “The main positive influences on reducing the number of deaths from COVID-19 have been handwashing, social distancing, and the lockdown. For the most vulnerable people on this planet, such strategies are not an option. People who live in conflict zones or in refugee camps cannot physically distance, they cannot self-isolate, they have inadequate facilities for washing, and are often without access to health care.”
Speaking on Sky, he added: “David Miliband, from the International Rescue Committee, did a survey very recently on 34 fragile countries using the same sort of modelling used by Imperial [College London].
“In these countries, he said there is going to be between 500 million to one billion infections”.
40 countries have pledged $8 billion to help fight the spread of the virus but questions have to be asked about whether this is going to be enough and why developed nations only consider health conditions to be important enough to fight serious after it has affected their own citizens.
According to UNICEF, 15,000 children die every day, most of these deaths are preventable. This has been going on for years. On September 11th 2001, 2,996 people died as a result of the terrorist attacks in the US, these deaths were, of course, tragic and they led to the invasion of Afganistan and then Iraq. In 2007, it was estimated that the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost US taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat was being financed with borrowed money. Basic maths would then say the US spent $800 million for each person who died in the 2001 attacks.
In 2019, the New York Times estimated that over $2 trillion had been spent on the war in Afganistan alone. They say there is little to show for it. The Taliban control much of the country. Afghanistan remains one of the world’s largest sources of refugees and migrants. More than 2,400 American soldiers and more than 38,000 Afghan civilians have died. The Taliban are getting stronger and stronger and in 2017 328,000 hectares were being cultivated for opium poppies as opposed to 84,000 in 2002.
UNICEF complains that global progress on child survival has stalled largely due to a lack of political commitment and leadership. Why are the lives of these children worth any less because they were born in a developing rather than a developed country? If 15,000 British children died in a day, the Prime Minister would be expected to do something pretty quick or he wouldn’t be the prime minister for long. Why are we not as appauled just because these children are dying somewhere else?
In 2017, the World Bank estimated that countries need to quadruple spending to $150 billion a year to deliver universal safe water and sanitation by 2030, helping to reduce childhood disease and deaths while boosting economic growth. This suggests that only $37.5 billion was being spent per year as of 2017, a mere $6,520 per infant mortality.
I believe we should apply the same value to people wherever in the world they happen to be born and it worries me that if Covid-19 had not affected so many people in developed nations we might not have been as bothered to do anything about it.
The World Food Programme is reporting that the coronavirus emergency threatens the delivery of vital food assistance to nearly 100 million hungry people. You can donate to the World Food Programme here.
Every week, around the world, hospitals, medical personnel and aid workers come under attack. They are not a target. Health Care in Danger is an initiative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement aimed at addressing the issue of violence against patients, health workers, facilities and vehicles, and ensuring safe access to and delivery of health care in armed conflict and other emergencies.
According to the UNHCR, conflict and heavy floods has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in Somalia, amidst COVID-19 threat. You can donate to the UNHCR here.
You might be reading this while on lockdown yourself, or while watching the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread rapidly and without discrimination, make its way across the world. You can help UNICEF protect and support children and families affected by COVID-19.
After five years of war, people in Yemen have some of the lowest levels of immunity and the highest levels of vulnerability in the world. If that wasn’t enough, only half the hospitals are open. You can donate to the UN Population Fund here.
Medicins Sans Frontieres teams are racing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in over 70 countries, including opening projects in new countries as they become pandemic hotspots. You can donate to MSF here.
I understand that many of you reading may have lost your jobs as a result of this pandemic. My thoughts are with all of you and I will endeavour to write a post related to the economic and other impacts of Covid-19 soon.