The COVID-19 pandemic has, in just the space of several weeks, altered the very fabric of American life. Schools, restaurants, workplaces, and other staples of daily life have been closed, the media is saturated with images and information about the virus and its toll, and anxiety hangs in the air and behind every mask. In a crisis like this, we often forget about the rest of the world––we are suddenly an island suspended in empty space. As COVID-19 gains traction in all corners of our planet, developing countries are hit especially hard. In places like India, social distancing is especially a luxury. Many in India, especially in rural areas, live meal to meal. This means that if they can’t work, they can’t eat. The national lockdown is not merely just a question of the economy and public safety, but of starvation. State support for these populations has not quite met the need, and as the lockdown continues, more and more citizens teeter on the edge of starvation.
The population density in India also poses challenges to social distancing––the sheer number of people makes the 6 feet radius harder to realize. Developing countries are also facing a hefty shortage of supplies. The United States and other rich countries, facing their own shortages, are not helping. Stories of the United States hijacking shipments of crucial PPE and testing materials. As the crisis continues, developing countries are losing out on this inflamed scramble for resources. Scientists in Latin America and Africa have been told by manufacturers that their orders for testing kits and other materials would not be filled for months because all that they produced was going to the United States and Europe. To make matters worse, many developing countries have to face the pandemic with underfunded healthcare systems. A recent NCBI study found that some countries only have one ICU bed per million residents. It’s clear that in this pandemic, some countries will come out worse than others. Some of that has to do with the quality of governance, but it also fundamentally has to do with resources. Developing countries are facing the same issues as the United States but without America’s political or financial power. A global crisis like this calls for a global effort to ensure that this battle for supplies and resources is zero-sum-game and not total destruction for those who have less.