Coronavirus - people most at risk

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Husna Rizvi writes about how coronavirus will affect people who already live in enclosed spaces


People who live in slums get free food in the 21-day lockdown (to try to stop coronavirus), in Ahmedabad, India, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave

In 2019, three billion people (information from Water Aid) had no water to wash their hands. How can they protect themselves from coronavirus? This shows us that people are not equal when we all face this crisis.

Now (end of March 2020), there is not yet too much coronavirus in countries with less money. If and when the virus spreads, it will be very difficult to stop because there are not enough resources, and people do not get enough accurate information.

It is even more difficult for people in occupied areas. In March, two areas already cut off from the world had their first cases of Covid-19: Kashmir and Gaza.

Al Jazeera reported that there were 62 ventilators in Gaza – for a population of two million – more than two-thirds of them are already in use - and they have only two testing kits. Israel is still stopping all supplies coming in and out of Gaza and does not allow sick people to leave.

People in Kashmir have a communications block on the internet. Iqbal Saleem is a professor of surgery at Government Medical College in Srinagar. He wrote on Twitter that he’s been trying to download the instructions for intensive care management from doctors in England. 24 Mbs and he couldn’t download it after one hour. Doctors and people who live in Kashmir cannot follow the news or find out how to treat the virus.

For people in prisons around the world, the risks are even higher. The Legal Aid Society said that the infection rate at Rikers Island prison in New York City was 87 times more than for the whole of the US. Prisons have too many people in too small space, there are not enough staff and are dirty. Many people need more help and cannot be alone.

Refugee camps – where isolation is also impossible – are perhaps the most dangerous places of all. Kutupalong in Bangladesh could be the biggest refugee camp in the world. More than 630,000 Rohingya people live there. It’s the same for informal settlements of people who had to move from war in countries like as Syria, South Sudan and Yemen.

And in places where people in the Global South are able to self-isolate, the danger of losing work – especially for people who get paid each day – will be more of a problem than health. Mohammed Sabir sells drinks in Delhi. He is one of at least 90 per cent of Indian workers who work informally. He told the BBC: ‘hunger may kill many like us before coronavirus.’

But if the world does the right thing, it could project these people who need most protection – from the virus and from the difficult things we have to do to stop it. The rich world should give a lot of money to help the Global South - funding, cancelling debt and sending equipment.

The #JustRecovery campaign, said that all policies should:

• put people’s health first;

• give economic help directly to the people and help workers and communities – not shareholders and businesses.