Listen: Matt Darvas of Micah Australia chats to Katrina Roe
Australia may be emerging from lockdown, but Coronavirus is right now wreaking untold devastation on the world’s poorer nations.
The World Bank has predicted the pandemic could push 40 to 60 million people into extreme poverty.
Matt Darvas from the anti-poverty coalition Micah Australia, has described it as “a terrifying situation” – with death rates and job losses “skyrocketing”.
He told Katrina Roe that in some parts of the world, official death tolls released by governments are not matching up with the reality.
“We Don’t Know What to Do With All the Bodies” – Nigeria
For example, Micah Australia has heard reports from Nigeria, where a grave-digger who prepares burial plots for the poor, has said, “We used to dig seven burial plots a day, we’re now burying 80 people a day. And we don’t know what to do with all the bodies.”
Some African nations, having learnt hard lessons from pandemics like Ebola in the past, are doing “exceptionally well” with their testing and confinement measures, says Matt. But in other nations worldwide, there is a large and silent death toll – with many people quietly slipping away at home, their deaths simply not being reported.
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“Health Systems on Verge of Collapse” – Latin America
Nations across Latin America are struggling, too, with health care officials in the region reporting that “their health systems across the board are on the verge of collapse”, says Matt.
“Everything that was modelled here as worst case scenario in Australia, is actually starting to take place in some of those countries: ‘What happens when the beds are overflowing, and there aren’t ventilators for people? Well, that is the reality in a lot of these countries now.”
“Can’t Get the Bodies Out Quick Enough” – India
While the Coronavirus, mercifully, doesn’t impact children, sadly they are still becoming the pandemic’s economic victims.
In nations like India, many families who were already living on $1 a day, have now lost their meagre incomes – with no government food programs to put food on their empty tables. As a result, children are becoming the secondary victims of the virus, due to sheer poverty that results. Many children are also at risk of sexual abuse and trafficking.
Hospitals in India are becoming completely overwhelmed, too – particularly in Dubai.
“I read reports there that they can’t get the bodies out quick enough,” Matt said. “You’ve got patients fighting Coronavirus on beds next to those who have just passed away. The systems are just in total overwhelm.”
“Not Enough Protective Equipment for Doctors” – Yemen
One of the greatest problems across the world is the lack of good healthcare for the vulnerable. In Yemen, Matt says, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders is the only COVID-clinic in Aden, the nation’s second largest city – because local doctors, in a public health system battered by civil war, have no protective equipment. Turning up at work could literally kill them – so they stay home.
“Some people might think, ‘oh, that’s not very compassionate’”, said Matt, “but it’s not practical to have the only doctors in the country, face to face with those people who have Coronavirus. It’s just not a feasible situation. They don’t have the workers and they don’t have the equipment to do the work that needs to be done there.”
“Unleashing a Wave of Generosity” – Australia
As COVID restrictions ease in Australia, Matt is urging people to think about how they can make a difference for their “global neighbours” who are struggling.
“Those that were vulnerable before this crisis are even more vulnerable now,” he said. “Refugees, those that are in modern slavery, the people who didn’t have rights and access to basic health care before now, are obviously finding themselves at the end of the queue if they get Coronavirus now.”
“We saw it in the bushfires and we [are seeing it] in Coronavirus…it is unleashing its own wave of generosity of compassion of looking after our neighbor.”
Established Australian aid agencies, such as World Vision, Baptist World Aid, Compassion, CBM and others, have rapidly adapted their aid and support programs to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people. And Aussie supporters have stepped up to the plate, says Matt.
“We saw it in the bushfires and we [are seeing it] in Coronavirus…it is unleashing its own wave of generosity of compassion of looking after our neighbor,” he said. “Churches are kicking into gear here in Australia in ways never seen before… and in the overseas church partners… to provide that first wave of relief and assistance.
Find out more about how you can make a difference at michaaustralia.org