Written by Mpho Mpofu, Zimbabwe (Diploma in Development Leadership, 2018)
Executive Director, The Voice of Africa Trust
The world has been hit by one of the deadliest pandemics we have seen and experienced in a while. For millennials it’s the first of its kind and l have seen its wrath. I have seen how it has destabilised world order and will most likely present a new shift in global politics as we know it. The pandemic has destroyed economies. No country will remain unscathed. It has disrupted education and development work and has certainly exposed poor public health systems across the globe. With everything being disrupted it’s important to look at how development has been affected and what it means in the next coming months or years when this virus has been eliminated.
Firstly, the most undeniable and visible impact is on access to public health – not just in developing countries, but in developed countries as well. The virus has demonstrated a need for the government to invest in public health because the deadliest war that could wipe humans off the face of the earth is no longer going to be nuclear, it will be viral. The battlefield is currently in hospitals, and health care workers have seriously taken on a strain. It is very important that world leaders introspect on the consequences of their actions and moving forward invest in public health care for all. It’s a sad state for most African countries and Zimbabwe to be specific, as politicians have been used to being jetted out to first world countries to access health care. The virus is putting everyone in their countries and asking them to reflect on the importance of health care.
As it is, Zimbabwe as a country has less than 10 functioning ventilators and the death of a renowned journalist due to coronavirus was in fact due to negligence and poor health care. He had no access to a ventilator; the hospital had no access to water and electricity. For many Zimbabweans, coronavirus is a sad realisation that they might not make it out alive even though they could have lived because the health care system does not warrant survival. It is in fact a death sentence from the ministry of health. When we survive corona, l pray and hope our leaders will take health care seriously.
The sad part about this is how it has affected health care in general. People with ailing sicknesses are unable to receive health care because the focus is now on corona patients. Pause for a second and think about what the lockdown means for HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis patients who need to receive treatment during this time. Pause and reflect on how the virus has affected health care generally and you will realise that once this ends, public health care should be everyone’s advocacy because one way or another we have been impacted and affected by it.
For many Zimbabweans, coronavirus is a sad realisation that they might not make it out alive even though they could have lived because the health care system does not warrant survival.
Children have stopped going to school and this has impacted education. As we move past coronavirus, will we be able to respond to the educational gap? What of those who cannot afford homeschooling? The virus has exposed the inequality gap especially in most African countries. It has exposed how work from home is a luxury for a few and the vast majority that live from hand to mouth on hourly rates cannot afford to stay at home. This explains the defiance of many such countries that have had to impose lock downs.
As a development practitioner, my heart bleeds for all beneficiaries across the globe who have been dependent on various programmes to survive. What has become of aid programmes and various programming responding to sexual and reproductive health? In all this, women and children have felt the brunt of the pandemic more than anyone. Colleagues have lost jobs because their development work does not allow for them to work remotely. With all this happening, development workers must pause and reflect on how we have been doing development work because after this pandemic, there is a lot that needs to be done and it needs to be done correctly.
Coronavirus is a group project that we seem to be failing dismally at. It calls us to leave behind our nationality, patriotism, organisational allegiance, or all other intersectionalities that we have used to categorise ourselves and respond to this as humans.
If we are to win against this virus, we need to work together as global citizens.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done and together we can make a difference.