COVID-19 is a pandemic. This means that around the world, communities are affected. We must specifically highlight the affected communities that are too often forgot. These are the communities that remain vulnerable even after the world moves on from each public health crisis. Let us be mindful that there are people much more vulnerable to the fallout of COVID-19.
There are people who already do not have adequate healthcare. They are more vulnerable because their previous healthcare conditions have not been treated adequately. High-risk conditions like heart or lung disease, high blood pressure and diabetes increase the risk of death. We need to acknowledge that many people don’t receive adequate treatment for these diseases which when combined with COVID-19 can be deadly.
There are people who live in areas without adequate health and sanitation. Despite promises to end pit latrines, bucket-toilet systems and inadequate waste management, we still live in a country where the poorest of its citizens reside in underdeveloped sub-urban squatter, creating conditions that make containing the spread of COVID-19 difficult.
There are people who cannot easily self-isolate. They are service workers who must work to feed their families. They are essential/emergency workers such as health practitioners, security personnel, drivers, various public service workers, emergency responders and any other key occupation.
There are people whose incomes depend on the revenue of their small businesses. These are largely impacted by more self-isolation. These are vendors, informal traders, artisans, freelancers and artists.
In a time like this, we need to think deeply about the socio-economic system we have allowed to continue in this country.Tweet
We have created a society of deep injustice which leaves millions of South Africans unsafe from threats on their health, income and general well-being.
Yet, we still have a political machine that tries to give more power to itself then to people. Instead of addressing an inadequate public healthcare system, our government has drafted a National Health Insurance bill which gives the Minister of Health immense power, creates a centralised board to administer all the funds of this insurance scheme and is not clear on measures of accountability.
Despite funding being available to upgrade infrastructure and sanitation, there are areas that still don’t meet basic healthcare and infrastructure regulations. NGOs are forced to take the government to court over pit latrines at schools. Funds are misspent while particular interests make immense money from government tenders. So, instead of improving public infrastructure, our government lines the pockets of their allies.
We need to confront a basic fact. Our current political leadership is not solving the issues of its people. Instead, their interest lay with enriching themselves. It is a bad situation, made even worse in a time of crisis.
Today, we need to pressure these rulers to act decisively to put aside selfish agendas and help people. We need to constantly demand that they consider the vulnerability, the pain and the outcry of all people for more decent well being. We need to address the COVID-19 outbreak, but also pay very close attention to addressing its consequences.
Tomorrow, we must promise to change the socioeconomic system. Instead of funnelling bailouts and funds to entities like SAA, we must fund decent universal public transport. Instead of giving government officials all the power to decide healthcare fund allocations, we should involve communities. Instead of maintaining the socioeconomic divide between the poor and wealthy, we should be connecting urban and township regions and develop affordable housing in urban areas.
Overall, we should create a new political culture, because this will not be the last crisis. In fact, for so many South Africans, everyday life is a crisis. For so many, surviving is a constant struggle. Let us not forget their strife. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.