TACOMA, Washington — Since the COVID-19 outbreak, several organizations have speculated on the negative impacts the pandemic could have on the world’s poor. However, there has been little mention of the individuals fighting to mitigate the crisis’ effects. Though the world may be locked down, poverty is not on lockdown. In these trying times, it is important to help those who need it the most.
Internet Access in Botswana
Edwin Makwati is one such person using this time to give back. He grew up in a village called Gobojango in Botswana. During his childhood and adolescence, the internet and access to it was a rather foreign concept. Now Makwati is a Ph.D. student studying international law in South Africa. However, Makwati returned to the village following the closure of the university he attends due to the coronavirus. He found himself once again in an environment without any computers. Though the infrastructure is still lacking, the village now has electricity and a road that connects with a neighboring village. Here citizens can shop for their necessities, unlike in Gobojango.
Before returning to South Africa, Makwati met a high school girl who had received a scholarship to study in the U.K. He felt for her, remembering how he had struggled to handle a computer nearly two decades ago, never having used one before then. To help her and others like her, Makwati bought two used desktops to donate. Internet access is important in the process of overcoming systemic impoverishment and helps ensure that poverty is not on lockdown during the pandemic.
Botswana was once one of the world’s poorest countries. In less than two decades, it may be a high-income country. Nonetheless, it is also one of the world’s most unequal countries, as are other sub-Saharan countries. Africa has the largest youth population in the world. Access to computers, among other things, may provide many youths with the tools to help lift their families out of poverty.
Access to Hygiene Products
Poverty is not on lockdown. This is also made evident in the work of Sali Hughes, Jo Jones and Beauty Banks in the UK. Hughes is a resident beauty columnist for Guardian Magazine and a weekly contributor to BBC Radio 5 Live. Jones, on the other hand, is a freelance consultant who has worked with Victoria Beckham Beauty and Burberry Beauty. They created Beauty Banks in 2017. It is a “people-powered grassroots movement” that provides those in poverty with hygiene and care products.
While Hughes was filming a report on homelessness, she came across a small box in a homeless shelter that contained soap, among other things. She and Jo had already been aware of people’s lack of hygiene and care products. Within two days, they had launched Beauty Banks. Besides providing products for those in need, the bank also lobbies with the British government. It is a partner of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on beauty, aesthetics and wellbeing.
In March of this year, Beauty Banks called for support in providing “emergency hygiene parcels that will help protect people in the UK who can’t afford to keep themselves and their families safe from coronavirus as others.” It has raised more than ￡110,000 (more than $143,000).
Although the U.K. and other Western countries are among the wealthiest countries in the world, resources are not evenly spread. A 2018 BBC article states: “according to research conducted by the Trussell Trust, which has a 428-strong network of food banks nationwide, more than half of people using its services cannot afford toiletries.” The term “hygiene poverty” refers to the fact that, “two out of five people do not have a basic hand-washing facility.” This may pose serious problems with respect to dealing with the pandemic.
Access to Education in Guatemala
Gerardo Ixcoy, also known as “Lalito 10” in Guatemala, is also continuing to actively fight poverty. He is a teacher in Guatemala’s western highlands. He has been pedaling a tricycle daily to teach his students, trying to meet with each of them twice per week.
Ixcoy came to see that remote learning is challenging for his students: “parents didn’t have money to buy data packages [for their phones]and others couldn’t help their children understand the instructions [sent via WhatsApp].” At least two parents have told him that they didn’t have food as well.
Ixcoy’s Guatemalan school children are not the only ones who have faced disruptions to their education due to the coronavirus. Hundreds of millions of school children have received no education at all. This prolonged loss of learning could negatively impact their futures and hurt the development of the countries they live in.
Made evident by the actions Makwati, Beauty Banks and Lalito 10 have taken to help those in need, it is apparent that even during a pandemic, poverty is not on lockdown. Many people still rely on humanitarian non-profit organizations, charity and donations just to get by.
– Kylar Cade