The rich, the poor and COVID-19 – Perspectives by Chinedu Bosah

Most diseases are linked to poverty, governments and ruling elite do not see the need to eradicate these diseases, pharmaceutical companies can only produce drugs and vaccines only if people can afford these drugs, those who could not afford the drugs are either candidate for long painful illness or the grave. Age-long malaria kills 300,000 people (about 75% of global deaths) in Nigeria annually; Cholera kills about 140,000 globally and is linked to consumption of contaminated food and water because partly 789 million people lack basic drinking water globally; Dengue Fever/virus is a mosquito-borne viral disease with about 300 million infections globally and 25,000 deaths annually- these are a few of the numerous diseases that are linked to poor housing condition, consumption of bad water, poor environment, poor nutrition etc.  

The rich are immune to diseases that afflict the poor, they live in highbrow areas and better environment, drinks potable water and will never suffer from malnutrition but possibly overfeeding and constipation. I disagree with people including Madonna who says that COVID-19 is a great equalizer, I agree that the rich and the poor are infected but it is affecting the poor more and we have seen some rich buying privileged treatment.

If anyone doubts me, ask Abba Kyari (Chief of Staff to President Buhari) where is he receiving his treatment, absolutely not in any of the isolation centres; ask the Nigerian Governors with COVID-19 (Seyi Makinde, Bala Mohammed and Nasir El-Rufai) where and how they are receiving their treatments; Boris Johnson is currently undergoing treatment in St Thomas Hospital, one of UK’s best and prestigious hospital and has one of the best Intensive Care Units in the country? It does not mean that these privileged treatments guarantee 100 percent success rate since it depends on several other factors (age and other underlining health problems) but they have a higher success rate than the underprivileged.

Contrary to uninformed assertion some weeks back in Nigeria by some people that suggest that blacks are immune to COVID-19, preliminary data shows that African-Americans are dying at a higher rate of COVID-19 than the US population at large due to disparities in health, healthcare access and other factors. Blacks constitute 33 percent of the population in Louisiana but constitute more than 70 percent of the people killed by COVID-19; African-American in Michigan constitute 14 percent of the population but constitute 40 percent of the deaths as a result of COVID-19. The reason for this is that aside underlining health issues and access to healthcare, African-American are forced to work for lack of sustainable savings compared to the whites and as a result are more susceptible to infections and deaths.

According to OXFAM International: 10,000 people die every day globally for lack of affordable healthcare; 258 million children are out of school globally; and yet $240 billion net income in 2012 of the richest 100 billionaires would be enough to make extreme poverty four times over; 1% world’s richest  people have more than twice as much as 6.9 billion people; Nigeria’s 5 richest men and women (Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Femi Otedola and Andul-Samad Rabiu have a combined wealth that could eradicate extreme poverty in Nigeria and yet 94 million people live below poverty while 736 million people live in extreme poverty globally. There is nothing as dehumanizing as begging to survive, there is nothing as excruciating as perpetually going to sleep on an empty stomach, there is nothing as shameful as your landlord throwing your property on the street because of rent, there is nothing as pathetic as seeing your children staving and you are unable to provide. Mass poverty and growing inequality is the genetic makeup of capitalism.

Ordinary people that violated the lockdown order are being harassed, beaten, threatened, charged to court and detained, Dangote Trucks that mostly carry bags of cement which does not fall into the category of essential goods are allowed to ply the roads, distribute bags of cement, while Dangote Cement and Refineries have forced workers to work in a prison camp manner in defiance of the lock down and no state or institutions including the Lagos State, Ogun State, Federal Governments and the security agencies will arrest Aliko Dangote for this violation.  

There was no urgency, seriousness and preparedness towards malaria and some other diseases, it is the same reason COVID-19 met us unprepared and unserious, it is simply because COVID-19 is affecting the rich as well and could potentially undermine production, commerce and capitalist exploitation immensely, hence, this level of belated emergency response. In 2018 alone, Lassa Fever killed 171 Nigerians, there has not been any emergency or serious response because it does not threaten the VIPs (Abba Kyari, Seyi Makinde, Okezie Ikpeazu, etc.,) and their class.

If capitalism invests more in medicine (preventive medicine as well), we would have prevented, eradicated or largely minimized Denge Virus, Lassa Fever, Malaria, Typhoid, Cholera, Ebola, Corona Virus, etc., but with the pharmaceutical companies’ interest in maximizing profit and ruling elite lip service, such ambition is illusory. Investment in Vaccine and drugs are usually predicated on the basis of profitable returns. Big companies control politics, these CEOs put their yes-men in political offices while elections become mere rituals and fundamentally determines what happen in government houses from the board rooms. Only the working class through a socialist revolution that will democratically manage the economy and politics that can plan production and exchange to meet human needs and bring about equality in all ramifications.

Comrade Chinedu Bosah is a socialist activist and writes from Lagos. 07033775517; 08098284000

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