Fighting COVID-19 in Pakistan Through Poverty Alleviation

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Prior to COVID-19, Pakistan was already struggling from large amounts of poverty and had few ways to come out of it. Currently, about 25% of the Pakistani population falls under the poverty line and 50% struggles to feed their families. This article will discuss contributing factors to poverty as well as the situation with COVID-19 in Pakistan.

Three Main Factor Contributing to Poverty

There are three main factors that perpetuate these conditions.

  1. Population Explosions: Being a third world country, families in Pakistan are often comprised of five to six people, much more than any impoverished family could afford to feed. High child mortality rates from a lack of healthcare and misinformed cultural stigmas around contraceptives are the primary reasons for these large families. To offer some perspective, in Pakistan, one in 89 women die from childbirth; however, the country only spends around 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare.
  2. Poor Government Policies: The government has been unable to implement effective economic plans since the 1970s when 22 families controlled the economy of all of Pakistan. During that time, the government did try to aid the unemployed, but the idea fell through due to a lack of planning. Ever since then, the country has been heavily dependent on foreign loans and other aid. Consequently, many local industries have turned Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Malaysia to conduct their businesses, which has only increased poverty in Pakistan
  3. Feudalism: Feudalism still exists in Pakistan, outlasting its own expiration date. Pakistani feudalism has allowed landlords to extort peasants for obscene amounts of the food from their farms, leaving them with nothing to sell for profit and little to feed themselves with. For instance, despite Pakistan being a developing nation, the Bhuttos family owns 40,000 acres of land worth billions of dollars. Naturally, serfs working on the land see next to none of that money trickle down to them. 

The Toll of COVID-19 in Pakistan

As of May 20, 2020, Pakistan had more than 46,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Keep in mind though that the lack of access to tests among the poor means that the actual total is likely much higher. Within this total, there have been more than 1,000 recorded deaths. Despite previously having little success with bringing its citizens out of poverty, the Pakistani government has joined the global effort of informing its citizens of how the coronavirus spreads and how to slow that growth.

When considering how Pakistan already suffers from poverty, the virus has plenty of ways to infiltrate an already vulnerable country. Naturally, since 72% of the population is associated with the low-income farming districts, purchasing tests or seeing doctors may not be an option for many people. This predicament is then amplified by the fact that Pakistani families are very large (five to six people). So, even people that quarantine themselves risk a greater number of relatives than smaller families would.

Hope on the Horizon

In February, the China Economic Net (CEN) had reported on successful collaborations with Pakistan in trying to develop cures for the virus. Pakistan sent 300,000 tablets of chloroquine phosphate to China. The drug has been a part of many conversations recently in the news about how effective it supposedly is as well as what negative side effects it may have. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed its distribution to hospitals under special circumstances. However, it has warned that the drug can cause heart problems in patients.

This was certainly a sign of progress and cooperation, but it is hardly a time to start any victory laps. Since many of these difficulties are amplified by poverty, donating to charities that help Pakistan is by no means an empty gesture. Any money can help save a life that can have a ripple effect in finding ways to battle the virus around the world. Remember, a victory against COVD-19 in Pakistan is a victory around the world.

Bryce Thompson
Photo: Wikimedia

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