Covid-19: A multifaceted challenge

It is imperative to understand that the economic shut down is interlinked with several other issues: mass unemployment, dwindling foreign reserves, public resentment, food shortages and a health emergency. Covid-19 is primarily a healthcare crisis; however, its repercussions – labour immobility, falling international trade and an atmosphere of fear – are showing signs of jolting the global food supply.

COVID-19

In the initial days of the First World War, it was believed that the war was going to be short and decisive. Many prominent leaders of the time promised that their boys would be back by Christmas; they were proved wrong. The First World War came to an end in 1919; however, it sowed the seeds for World War II, at Versailles. Therefore, the crisis that started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo came to an end when the Russian army entered Berlin, in 1945. The decades in between tell a tale of distrust, confusion and uncertainty.

The ongoing pandemic, just like the First World War, is believed to be an ephemeral struggle, which would wither away into history in a few months. The truth is that nobody knows how this quagmire will end. But perhaps what is certain is that there is only one way out – a vaccine. It is believed that it can take up to six months to come up with one. In the meantime, how will the contagion abate? It will not.

Read more: Corona pandemic is a gift of neoliberal economics?

It has become increasingly clear that prolonged lockdowns are hard to sustain – both economically and socially. The tradeoff between saving lives and saving livelihoods is hugely complicated. The costs are high. However, no government around the world can claim with certainty that it has found the perfect strategy to cope with Covid-19 crisis. No one knows where they are headed.

These questions will only be answered in the future, with the benefit of hindsight. For the time being, it is imperative to understand that the global shut down is interlinked with several other issues: mass unemployment, dwindling foreign reserves, public resentment, food shortages and a health emergency.

Covid-19 is primarily a healthcare crisis; however, its repercussions – labour immobility, falling international trade and an atmosphere of fear – are showing signs of jolting the global food supply. The COVID-19 pandemic will see more than a quarter of a billion people suffering acute hunger by the end of the year, according to new figures from the World Food Programme (WFP).

The Eid holidays witnessed the nation turning a blind eye to all the SOPs and precautionary measures, as thousands of people poured into markets for Eid shopping

Latest numbers indicate the lives and livelihoods of 265 million people in low and middle-income countries will be under severe threat. “These new projections show the scale of the catastrophe we are facing,” warned WFP chief economist Arif Husain. “We must make sure that tens of millions of people already on the verge of starvation do not succumb to this virus or its economic consequences in terms of loss of jobs and incomes.

Currently, global harvests seem promising, and there is little chance of any food shortage. However, logistical peculiarities are a hindrance.  For instance, crops in America are dependent on Mexican labour for harvest. Similarly, crops in France and Spain are mostly reliant on labour from Eastern European countries for harvesting.

The labour immobility resulting from lockdowns has put the entire harvest in jeopardy. The pre-emptive lockdown by the Indian government has seen a considerable rise in starvation and hunger. In Pakistan, the locust attack seems to be putting the Cotton crop at risk. Agriculture contributes a hefty 24pc to Pakistan’s GDP; it employs half of the country’s population.

Read more: Collaboration must for fighting Pakistan’s locust invasion

The erratic climate pattern has already perplexed the farming communities. The ongoing devastation caused by Locusts swarms will only exacerbate their conditions. All of these developments, in addition to the pandemic, will have a detrimental impact on food security around the world.

The Eid holidays witnessed the nation turning a blind eye to all the SOPs and precautionary measures, as thousands of people poured into markets for Eid shopping. Instead of flattening the curve, Pakistanis seem adamant to make it as steep as possible. If this leads to a strict lockdown in the coming days, the challenges for the government will increase substantially.

We are once again where we were a century ago – in an uncertain, unpredicted and unchartered territory. These unfavourable circumstances have put an enormous responsibility on the governments to ensure that there is no hoarding of food supplies. Artificial food shortages, created to extract profits, will have deadly consequences for the people.

Read more: How can Pakistan and India cooperate on COVID 19?

At the same time, people must understand the cost of their cavalier attitude for themselves and their loved ones. There is only one way to save yourself and your loved ones from the perils of Covid-19: adhere to the precautionary measures.

Ali Bin Rizwan holds a degree in Economics and Political Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). He is an avid reader, traveler and tennis enthusiast. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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