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While we all grumble at the inconvenience of self-isolation and social distancing, take a moment to appreciate that we live an affluent country that allows us to isolate. Spare a thought for the multitudes in developing countries who are about to be hit with a tsunami of COVID infection. Try social distancing when your home is a small shack you share with eight or ten others.
Try practising basic hygiene when you have no access to running water and you can’t afford hand sanitiser.

Annoyed you can’t buy toilet paper? Try living in Dharavi, Mumbai, where there is one toilet for every 1,400 people. Short on pasta or tinned tomatoes? Try living in rural India or Nepal where there’s no possibility of stockpiling food.

Frightened or frustrated about our shortage of ICU ventilators? Picture yourself in a defenseless country where, even prior to this pandemic, health resources are already overwhelmed and the prospect of upscaled hospital care is fantasy.

Right now in Australia, we appear to be flattening the curve with our public health and hospital-based interventions. But in developing countries, these measures will be largely ineffective or unfeasible. It’s highly likely that COVID 19 is about to rip through the developing nations in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. The developing world is already falling apart economically from the collapse of commodity prices, tourism and international funding. COVID 19 has only just reached these parts of the world, but as this infection escalates, there will be unimaginable damage to health, human rights and, in the most severe cases, basic food security and nutrition.

The Federal Government of our country has acted appropriately with unprecedented funding and cash flow programs to assist Australian citizens and businesses. But we must look beyond our borders. An estimated 55% of the global population has no access to social protection. Communities in fragile developing nations desperately need the help of wealthy countries like ours. There must be swift action from Australia and the rest of the G20 forum to devote emergency spending to these countries to prevent economic and social devastation. Unfortunately, the two global superpowers, the US and China, have squabbled over the cause and origin of the global spread, and this has hampered the international response.

Instead of brooding over the constraint and confinement in our lives right now, we need to spend some of our time in social isolation being socially ACTIVE. We – all of us – need to push, protest, campaign, rally our political leaders to step up our international support, urgently. Without this, without a massive boost to international aid, we risk a reversal of the solid gains we’ve made over the last twenty years, and an entire generation lost – in rights, in opportunities and in human dignity.

Ray Hodgson
Australians for Women’s Health

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