I’d like to focus on the presence of pests that are far more dangerous than the Coronavirus, pests that have taken the lives of millions of people, not just thousands, and if these pests had received the attention they deserve, and if the world’s governments had provided them with some of the resources they provide to confront the Coronavirus, they would have become stories of the past and many people would have been saved.
Moreover, Coronavirus media sensation masked the main problems that plague people’s lives in many countries, making matters worse. For instance, in Lebanon, the pandemic has come to complete the miserable lives of Lebanese and Syrian refugees who have been facing more than one national disaster since the beginning of the year. This includes government corruption, internal crises, and bankruptcy of banks that led to the exhaustion of the economy and the onset of a rapid economic collapse. Without procrastination or excessive words, I will review some of these tribulations, for it is impossible for me to mention them all.
War and conflict
Syria is entering its tenth year under mass devastation of war that has caused millions to flee to a foreign country to escape the danger and persecution of war, and all this is under close watch of the whole world. It has been ten years of murder and the shedding of innocent blood. The images and stories that come from Syria make us question our humanity, and make us doubt that we are human in the first place. In spite of this, the media focuses on the Coronavirus pandemic, the number of people infected, the number of deaths and the number of recoveries, and it ignores the pain of people suffering from the ongoing war. It appears that it is more important to know the number of people infected than to save the lives of people dying daily from war.
Not far away, in Yemen, such a crisis exists. UNICEF has reported that at least one Yemeni child dies every 10 minutes due to malnutrition and disease, warning that 2.2 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition and need treatment. All because of the war that started years ago and continues to take lives every day, leaving the surviving among them in a state of desperation.
The UN warns that the death toll of the pandemic in Yemen could surpass that of five years of devastating war. For the people of Yemen, it is the least of their concerns, given the diseases, hunger and death that surround them on all sides.
These are just some of the frightening and shocking examples of the world’s wars and conflicts that exist at this very moment. I leave you to answer this question: which threat is the most harmful to its victims? The virus or the war? And remember, dear reader, that the Coronavirus does not infect those who are committed to prevention, as opposed to wars in which most of the victims are innocent.
Economic Crisis and Poverty
Many countries in the world are suffering from economic crises that have made their people live the worst days of their lives, unable to secure their children’s livelihoods and to bring them to school. Every new sunrise is marked by a new difficult day.
The political and economic crisis in Lebanon has rocked the country since the beginning of the year, leading to the collapse of the value of the currency. Most of the people have become unable to buy their basic daily food and medicine in a disaster that has been the worst since the Civil War.
Then the pandemic began and eliminated any hope that these people could improve their conditions. Preventive measures to deal with the pandemic were the last nail in the coffin of the national economy, as companies, restaurants and shops had to close their doors and thousands of workers were laid off.
The statistics related to poverty in Lebanon according to a report from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) is frightening. Pictures of empty refrigerators in homes spread across social media, with Lebanon’s pound dramatically losing its purchasing power.
We’ve not gotten to the worst part yet; Syrian refugees in Lebanon are facing greater pressures, because their salaries are greatly reduced or completely absent, and the rise in house rents is their biggest concern. I had a conversation with someone who used to work as a teacher, but the school has been closed for six months. He has two kids, and he doesn’t have food or money to pay his rent. When talking to me, he didn’t know what to do and did not know what tomorrow would bring.
Where there is poverty there is often crime. Lebanon is an example, where some people resort to violating laws and committing crimes such as theft, robbery and even murder to live. Crime has increased in Lebanon as a result of a decline in the standard of living and an acceleration in the collapse of the economic system. Under the name of the crime of hunger, stories quickly spread to news agencies, predicting a dark future.
Moreover, events are accelerating in this devastated country, where a huge explosion occurred in the port of Beirut, destroying most parts of the city and leaving 300,000 people without a home. Investigations indicated that the blast was caused by the negligent storage of dangerous chemicals at the port. The streets were filled with people angry at the corruption of government officials and the negligence that had taken place, which led to this explosion, which left more than 150 people dead and 4,000 wounded.
I’d like to apprise you about the suffering of Syrian refugees in Lebanon through my personal story. With all the problems mentioned, Syrian refugees remain under pressure and face greater challenges as a result of the restrictions imposed on them to work freely. Syrian refugees have become subject to extortion by employers. The Syrian worker faces two options, either working long hours on a low salary or not working at all. I’ll share my personal experience with an employer. After a layoff due to the pandemic and a general lockdown for two months, I faced two options: working ten hours a day for two dollars only, or not having a job.
I chose to write these words because what is happening is a real disaster not only for the people of Lebanon, but also for the millions of Syrian refugees who will find themselves homeless if the current situation continues. I don’t think these people care about the pandemic because they face greater threats every day.
Ultimately, Lebanon’s people must work hand-in-hand to preserve their country. They need to move away from sabotage, support the Lebanese pound, encourage dependence on local industries, and boycott expensive goods to curb hyperinflation, but this does not mean that we’ll be careless and that we will not take the necessary precautions. On the contrary, extra care and caution must be taken and all preventive measures announced by the medical authorities must be taken. What I would like to focus on is that there are tribulations that are far more dangerous than Coronavirus that need attention from all of us.