“Rhetoric Vs Reality”: Confronting Difficult Truths in an Unequal Word through a Covid-19 Health-Care lens

The onset of the novel corona virus (COVID-19) in the Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China in December (2019) and the sporadic spread across the globe, has revealed gaping differences in the healthcare of the “have’s and have nots”. Early indicators of the virus were linked to 44 cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology from 31st December through 3rd of January 2020. It was only on 7th January that the novel coronavirus strain was isolated in China (WHO 2019). From these early uncertainties, 282 cases were confirmed on January 20th (2020). The virus escalated rapidly, across the western world nearly crumbling existing health-care systems. The virus has displayed vast social and economic inequalities between global states. When the Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana and South Africa, some countries in the west responded with racists narratives and travel bans. The German newspaper Die Rheinpfalz published a front-page story with the headline: “The virus from Africa is with us”. On December 2nd, 2021, a Bangkok Post headline read: “Government hunts for African visitors” (NPR, 2021). This skewed coverage received a global outcry and condemned by WHO. In Africa, the complexity in the late reporting of the first case of Covid-19 occasioned with late testing explains disparities in health care systems with the rest of the world. Kenya for example, reported its first case on March 15th, 2020, way after the virus had stabilized in China and was ravaging Italy and Spain. Even then, when African countries started reporting the presence of the virus in their territories, the numbers reported were comparatively low. There have been several theories advanced for this, at the national level, as countries amassed efforts to deal with the escalating threat that Covid-19 presented, there were evident cracks in the way cases were being handled. An investigative report in Kenya on Covid-19 millionaires (2021) extolled massive rot in the health care system. Funds meant to alleviate the effects of the Corona virus on cash stripped communities, ended in the hands of unscrupulous individuals. On a scale of contrast, endowed elites in Kenya could easily access treatment, in rural and informal settings desperate people stampeded to death to get free masks and food handouts. These disparities at home, echo similar contexts on the global scene challenging the United Nations philosophy for an equal world. On July 18th, 2020, the UN Chief Antonio Guterres pointed out the need for social protection inclusive of universal health care and basic income. Through a qualitative media and document analysis, this paper interrogates existing global social-economic inequalities envisioned through a Covid-19 health-care lens. It argues that perhaps the UN philosophy of an equal world exists only as rhetoric, comparatively to present realities. Instead, what we experience is unequal world.
Key Words: Covid-19 through a health lens, Unequal World, Global Economic-Social imbalances