The intersection between COVID-19 and already-occurring crises March 24, 2020Raimy Khalife-Hamdan
The world has erupted with fears, with tears, with mistrust. In an ironically collaborative way, every country on this globe is experiencing the same non-human, non-discriminatory beast: COVID-19. And who knows how long this internationally collective battle will last? Chinese cardiologists have been collaborating with American ones. The U.S. has sought the words of advice from Italian doctors. Georgia has acted quickly, resisting the mistakes of its neighboring European and Asian countries. The World Health Organization articulates a global reaction and perspective, while individual countries assert their autonomy by forming their own plans. Needless to say, we are each bursting with flames of urgency. It is unfortunate, however, that it hasn’t been until now that the world has decided to seek advice and to hear the wisdom of neighbors. However, perhaps this is the mysterious force that will finally push us to make much-needed changes in our health infrastructure, in our responses to human crises. I have to wonder, though, what this pandemic would look like, if it were to only have affected third-world countries. Would we all react with the same urgency and anguish? Likely not. While our newsfeed has become a stream of statistics and graphs, and predictions for the peaks of this crisis, journalists and readers have neglected to think about the other disasters occurring in the world. I have a hard time finding articles now, even in our most reliable newspapers, regarding the crises that were occurring before the rapid spread of the crisis. There is still a civil war in Libya. Insurmountable debt and poverty in Lebanon. Ongoing genocides of Rohingya in Myanmar. Opioid overdoses and homelessness in the United States. I am left with a dangerous question: what will happen when these already-existing, socially-draining human crises intersect with this COVID-19 pandemic? There are tremendous concerns over what may happen when the Uighur Muslims, who have limited access to hospitals and health clinics, become infected with COVID-19. What will happen when refugee camps in North Africa and the Middle East suddenly fall prey to this virus’ grasp? I am left afraid, because I know that those who are most vulnerable and marginalized will also be most impacted by a lack of healthcare. Lastly, I wonder about how to balance between our personal, local, and international responsibilities. While I feel connected to myself, my neighbors, and my global community, I wonder how selfish we must be in a warlike period. Now, more than ever, I am certain that we need to be selfless and compassionate, reaching out (remotely, of course) to those we care most about. This may be a test on our humanity’s ethical commitments. We must nurture our strength and moral courage. Through this pandemic, Earth has shouted enough to humans’ selfishness and egocentric mindsets, warning us of the dangerous consequences to harsh borders, intolerance, and discrimination. This pandemic may simply be the manifestation of our own ill-doings and moral failures. If we prove to Earth and to ourselves that we are able to resist the infiltration of this metaphoric enemy, then our chances at living in harmony afterward will increase.