- Daniyal Moazzam
Reflecting on 2020
There is one essential question we must ask ourselves when we reflect back to 2020. Was it a year of hope or a year of disappointment?
There is one answer to this fundamental question; neither.
We must look at 2020 from a broader perspective.
One could argue that 2020 was a year of critical reflection.
It was only until early March when we realised how serious the Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic was. After Europe decided to go into lockdown and close down their borders and social life, there was a general understanding that the elderly or people in high-risk groups, such as people having underlying medical conditions like cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes, were more prone and vulnerable to the virus. However, it is only until now that we have realised the divisions and inequalities the Coronavirus pandemic has created amongst certain groups of people around the world.
According to a research paper published by the University of Edinburgh, people that came from the most economically disadvantaged communities in Scotland were more likely to suffer from severe illnesses from Covid-19. Just over 25% of those hospitalized from Covid-19 between March and June were those that came from communities lacking basic necessities such as water and food. Similar studies in various European countries show similar findings.
This study shows the vast, disproportionate and unjustified health inequalities present in our societies all around the world. People who have obesity are also vulnerable to the virus, however, one fundamental aspect that we often forget is that people who suffer from obesity are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and since these communities lack proper health-care facilities, this has now shown to have a link to a higher death count due to Covid-19. Our race has shown to have a contributing factor to unfair equality of our health status, our access to healthcare, and the treatment we might get for Covid-19. It is more likely that disadvantaged communities will have an increased number of medical related problems, illnesses or a poorer well-being due to the division and insufficient education or funding given to such communities.
Aspects of health and environmental discrimination is also creating further inequality and divisions. New studies suggest that air pollution is a major cause for higher rates of illness and death count in the pandemic, as air pollution has shown to weaken our lungs and therefore become less resilient to fight the virus.
Disadvantaged communities with informal settlements and high levels of pollution are more likely to suffer from severe illnesses to Covid-19 | Jesse Marquez.
Unfortunately, we were too late to identify these problems prior to the pandemic, and it is those disadvantaged groups of people who have suffered the most. This is a prime example of the systematic health inequalities that governments and societies have created which are totally unavoidable. However, as we learn more about the impacts of Covid-19, we have an opportunity to critically reflect upon what has gone well and wrong. The pandemic has emphasized the importance of equality in regards to access to health and other related facilities, so that we can ensure that everyone regardless of their economic or social status, race, age, or gender, are given equal opportunities in becoming more healthier by support from their local and federal governments by providing equal opportunities, funding and resources to ensure this happening.
We are also currently dealing with one major challenge;
Climate change. Currently, all governments have their eyes on the pandemic and its devastating impacts it is having on their society and their economies, however what many people are forgetting is how climate change may be playing a role in creating pandemics like this.
Many governments have shown to be slow in acting towards combating climate change as it is not considered an immediate problem but rather a long-term problem.
Climate change is changing certain environmental conditions and our weather system, which is creating more wet and humid climate such as regular monsoons, which is boosting survival rates for certain mosquitos and enhancing the spread of malaria in parts of West Africa and the Amazon in South America.
Deforestation is said to be one of the major causes on the increased transmission of Malaria worldwide | Reuters/Ricardo Moraes.
Currently, preliminary evidence and studies from several researchers and the World Health Organization suggests that the origin of the virus is caused by the transmission of a disease from an animal to a human (this is known as a zoonotic disease). These diseases and viruses may become more common in the near future if no further action is taken to lessen the impact of climate change, as warmer climate and temperatures will make a more hospitable environment for such diseases to emerge.
Until today, many governments disregarded climate change as a ‘global emergency’, as this had not yet created big impacts on the society and most importantly their economies, however this pandemic could potentially become a ‘game changer’ on how we see climate change in the future. If new emerging scientific evidence proves that climate change is the cause for such contagious diseases like Covid-19 to emerge, we may start to look at climate change more seriously. The Covid-19 pandemic has had detrimental impacts on our economies all around the world, and governments are trying their best to contain the virus so it does not further damage their economies. However, climate change will be looked differently if these evidence start to roll out in newspapers worldwide.
You may think the year 2020 was probably not the greatest year we may have had, but on a societal point of view, it may be the greatest year we may ever have.
2020 may have shown us a glimpse on the dangers of our inactions in addressing health inequalities and climate change. It is only sooner than later that we realise that these issues will become more detrimental as years pass by. The pandemic has caused suffering to many around the world, but it has shown us our dire weaknesses in creating equality amongst all. If we are to avoid such pandemic in the future, all of these issues must be addressed in ensuring that we can continue back to how life was prior to this pandemic.