The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive loss of life in the world. It presents a unique challenge for public health, the food system, and the world's work. The pandemic has devastating consequences for both the economy and society. Tens of millions are at risk of becoming extremely poor. The number of people living in extreme poverty, which is currently at 690 million, could rise to 132 million by the end.
Existential threats threaten millions of businesses. Nearly half the global workforce of 3.3 billion is at risk of losing its livelihoods. The majority of informal economy workers are especially vulnerable as they lack access to social protection and quality health care, and have lost their access to productive assets. Many are unable or unwilling to work during lockdowns and provide for their families. Most people think that no income is no food or less nutritious food.
Our lives have been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many children cannot go to school after busy streets have been cleared, and bars and restaurants have been closed.
What might the future of society look like as a result of COVID-19's response? What can we learn from this experience?
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Millions of agricultural workers, waged or self-employed, face severe poverty and malnutrition while providing food for the world. They also suffer from low safety and a lack of labor protection.
Many of these people are motivated to work, even in dangerous conditions, because they have low or irregular incomes. This can expose them and their families to further risks. They may also resort to negative coping strategies such as child labor, predatory loans, distress sale of assets or distress sale of assets when they experience income loss.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought together food security, public and private health, employment and labor issues, including workers' safety and health. The human dimension of this crisis will require that we adhere to safe and healthy workplace practices, as well as ensure workers have access to decent work and protection of their labor rights across all industries. It is imperative to take immediate and deliberate action to save lives, and livelihoods, and provide income support and health coverage for the most vulnerable.
These workers include those in the informal economy, as well as those in low-paid, poorly protected jobs. Women are particularly underrepresented in low-paid care jobs and other roles.
If a pandemic occurs, people who cannot work risk losing their income or facing unemployment.
Based on past experiences, such as the 2008 global financial crisis, we know that losing income or employment can have profound effects on your health and, in particular, your mental health.
Many wealthy countries have schemes that provide a basic income to those who are unable or unwilling to work. It provides immediate security but also a relief to the businesses that employ them. This allows them to recover quickly and avoid any future restrictions.
For those who live alone, especially, social isolation can have serious consequences for their mental health. While we now have more information about the negative effects of loneliness on health, it is important to consider the practical issues people face such as buying food and getting medicine.
There are huge differences between poor and rich countries. The digital revolution has enabled many people living in isolation to keep in touch with their loved ones via the internet. Unfortunately, this is still not true for many poor countries.
Already, we've seen that some national health systems have stopped doing many of their usual activities in order to focus on COVID-19. People with other conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, are afraid to visit the hospital.
The number of heart attack patients in hospitals has dropped by half in some countries. People not seeking treatment when they are needed account for at least part of the excess deaths.
We need to rethink our future and address climate change and environmental degradation with urgency and ambition. Only then will we be able to protect all human health, livelihoods, and nutrition. Commercial air purifiers are a good option to combat Covid. Only then can we make sure that our "new normal" is better.
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