COVID-19 has taken the world into its merciless grip, causing illnesses, untimely deaths, and global despair. Everyone – whether poor or rich – is living in constant fear due to the existing pandemic. However, the deadly virus has proven cruelest to poverty-stricken people and families.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), four out of five people have been impacted by workplace restrictions around the globe. The organization further stated that approximately 1.6 billion temporary employees are at risk of losing their livelihood completely. These low-income families face absolute hunger and poverty now. They can’t stay at home despite the lockdown, as they have to look for temporary work for their next meal. We followed the stories of 4 people around the world to explain to us how the coronavirus pandemic has affected them and their families.
New Delhi, India
Since the Indian government went into a shutdown to flatten the coronavirus curve, stories of hunger deaths and suicides have emerged. A large percent of the Indian population has no access to work, food, and are emotionally unstable since the lockdown has taken place, forcing them to commit suicide in their homes.
For example, about 80 people killed themselves due to the fear and loneliness of being affected by the life-threatening virus. Some coronavirus deaths were also reported due to exhaustion and hopelessness caused by traveling long distances for rations and facing violence while collecting them.
Also, reportedly, a woman jumped off in the Ganges River along with her five children because of starvation; and an Indian migrant also hung himself after being severely wracked by hunger and poverty during the shutdown.
Restaurants across the world have been hit the most due to the coronavirus pandemic in comparison to other businesses. Lockdown restrictions have ensued people to quarantine and avoid public places at all costs. Many restaurants can’t afford to stay in business with a lack of regular customers. As a result, many chefs and waiters have lost their jobs.
One such case is of Budi Santosa, who was a cook in a Chinese fast food restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia. The 32-year-old man is the sole breadwinner of his family. He has a wife and two young children. So, he worries about them the most. With him and his wife forced to stay at home, Santosa is worried that they won’t have food to eat and will die out of hunger. However, poor circumstances have not deterred Santosa from going out and finding work. For the time being, he has borrowed money from his friends to make ends meet.
Nairobi Kenya is counted among the world’s poorest cities. The living conditions over there are below par and have gotten worse since the pandemic. Stories of hardships are countless in Nairobi.
The one that touched our hearts the most was Judith Andeka – a middle-aged mother of five. She lost her husband two years ago. Since then, she has been earning her livelihood by washing clothes. Before the pandemic, she could earn about $2.50 – $4 per day. But now, she is out of work with the looming pandemic threat. Many people in Kenya’s capital city have lost their jobs and can no longer afford her services. Even if they can pay, they no longer want Andeka to touch their clothes because they are worried about catching the virus.
Owing to her poorest state of life, Andeka has sent her five children off to live with her relatives until she finds a sustainable job. What’s more is that Andeka suffers from the worst kind of treatment at food distributions. Police officers and law keepers often use sticks and tear gas to keep back large crowds from hovering over the place. She fears losing her few valuable possessions, but despite that, she has to step out and find work daily.
As the coronavirus outbreak has spread in this South Asian country, affecting hundreds and thousands of people, a daily wager – Shireen Khan – in the capital city of Pakistan shared that he has not earned a single rupee since the pandemic has forced the countrywide lockdown. The daily wager sits every day by the road in the hope someone will stop by and offer him work.
The 46-year-old man does this daily out of hunger and illness. He has been suffering from typhoid for over five or six months and needs money for the treatment. Sadly, this is not just a story of Shireen Khan, but a story of hundreds of daily wagers like him who are struggling to find work and fend for themselves in these tough times.
The global economic crisis due to the coronavirus outbreak has worsened the lives of many lower-income people around the world. They are living in constant emotional and financial instability due to the lack of proper food, housing and employment. Specific focus is needed to reach out to the poor and provide them with the necessary means so they can afford the basics. Governments and NGOs should curate actionable plans and programs that can ease the financial hardships of the poor in these COVID-infested times.