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COVID-19 has revealed inequalities on an unprecedented scale


Melene Rossouw is the founder of Women Lead Movement. We interviewed her as part of our #PassTheMic series. Here’s some of what she had to say.

Within a few short months, COVID-19 has left a trail of devastation. It has severely affected our health and social welfare systems. In poorer countries, it has exacerbated another humanitarian crisis, where the fight between virus, hunger, and adequate hygiene has become a daily and ever growing battle and concern.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed our social, economic, health, and political inequalities on an unprecedented scale. We knew that we had inequalities between countries and within them but never had any external catastrophic event tested its substance, at the same time, all over the world.

Post pandemic, we cannot return to normal. Many countries are now forced to look at new ways to develop innovative policies, plans, and strategies that will inevitably have to reduce the vast inequalities and build more resilient and inclusive societies and economies.

Unfortunately not all countries have the financial and health resources to effectively fight or contain this pandemic, and without adequate resources the lives and livelihoods of millions of people are left hanging in the balance.

It is important at this juncture for all countries to commit to pull their resources together and partner to ensure that the most basic needs of people, especially the vulnerable, are cared for.

We have a commitment to each other as human beings to ensure that even those basic human rights and needs in a time like this should be upheld and protected amongst all other competing interests.

4 priorities in this current crisis

In my view, these four areas should be part of the most critical priorities in the global response:

First, access to affordable healthcare. COVID-19 is a universal health threat and therefore requires universal protective measures. The pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing health inequities and lack of access to quality and affordable health care services. We should never forget to place higher importance to the lives of people than profit especially during and after COVID-19.

Second, coordinated research to develop treatments and vaccines. We cannot have scientists in different parts of the world working in isolation.

Third, humanitarian and food assistance. Many people are not aware of the extreme hunger pandemic the world faces too. An additional 135 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. A global response must be developed and executed around this vital issue as the right to food and food security is a basic human right and critical for human survival everywhere.

And fourth, debt relief measures. For many poorer countries that have already suffered enormous economic loss due to the pandemic, debt repayments to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must be suspended during this crisis.

Creating a better future

Unity amongst world leaders is needed. In unity, collaboration, and solidarity we can achieve more and hold each other at a greater level of accountability for our actions — or lack thereof — going forward.

This pandemic highlighted that no government is capable of handling crises on its own. They need the support and collaboration from private sector, faith based organisations, and NGOs.

An African proverb called “Ubuntu,” meaning humanity, is often translated as “I am because we are.” As a global human race we are connected and dependent on each other for our survival and progress. COVID highlights this interconnectedness more than ever.

Hear more from experts in our #PassTheMic campaign, where global health experts take over celebrities’ social media channels to share the data, facts, and science we need to know to end COVID-19. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more.

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