Nearly three months after the first reports of the disease in China, more than 40 countries have reported at least a thousand cases of COVID-19, with the United States, Italy, China, Spain and Germany, France, and Iran registering at least 30,000 each. Altogether, 200 countries and territories have reported coronavirus outbreaks.
American media registered at least 123,000 cases in the U.S. (as of March 30), the most in any single country. A likely under-reported 81,439 coronavirus victims were reported in the PRC.
Interestingly, if you were to glance at our planet from space, the preponderance of cases so far would be in the northern hemisphere. Not so, from developing southern hemisphere countries, according to totals reported from Africa, Latin America, and portions of East Asia.
Despite the current comparatively low rates of disease in warmer regions, a Washington Post editorial notes that a variety of civil conflicts in a number of southern hemisphere or poorer nations are beginning to feel impacts from COVID-19.
An estimated 70 million people have been displaced from their homes by civil conflicts or fear for their lives. As U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned:
“These are places where people have been forced to flee from their homes because of bombs, violence or floods. They are living under plastic sheets in fields or crammed into refugee camps or informal settlements. They do not have homes in which to socially distance or self-isolate. They lack clean water and soap with which to do that most basic act of self-protection against the virus, washing their hands. And should they become ill, they have no way of accessing a health care system that can provide a hospital bed and a ventilator.”
According to the Post, “the United States and other rich countries have done little to help these potential COVID-19 disaster zones. But as Mr. Gutteres pointed out, doing so is not only a moral imperative, it is also crucial to ending the pandemic. Without action, “the virus will establish a foothold in the most fragile countries, leaving the whole world vulnerable as it continues to encircle the planet.”
The Secretary-General, according to Post, has unveiled a response plan put together by the World Health Organization and U.N. humanitarian agencies as well as private groups. The $2 billion fund they are seeking would provide tests, supplies for medical workers, and water and sanitation supplies to places that now lack it. The requested resources, Mr. Gutteres added, “are a drop in the bucket compared with what Western governments are spending on their own citizens.” As the Post notes, such aid is critical to defeating the disease.
In a press release announcing a noontime video panel March 31 of experts at its Washington headquarters, the Hudson Institute puts the critical need in context:
“The creativity and entrepreneurism of the U.S. private sector make it better positioned to develop solutions for, and recover from, the pandemic than its authoritarian competitors. At the same time, the long U.S. history of generosity in helping to improve the well-being of other societies should continue.”
As PDC President Sherry Mueller writes to Council members:
“In this disconcerting time, I invite you to revisit Pablo Neruda’s poem entitled: Keeping Quiet. The first two verses follow:
“Now we will count to twelve
And we will all keep still
For once on the face of the earth,
Let’s not speak in any language;
Let’s stop for a second, and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
Without rush, without engines;
We would all be together in a sudden strangeness.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More