Webinar lessons: the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities

Last week on the 25th of June our partner Challenges Abroad held a webinar with Dr Lisa Bricknell, on the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities. Lisa has visited our FutureSense Foundation programs with groups of public and environmental health students from CQU and Griffith University in both Cambodia and Nepal and has a wealth of knowledge to share as a public health expert.

We wanted to share some of the main points that came out of the webinar with Challenges Abroad and Lisa, starting with this.

"The virus does not discriminate, but it’s impacts do"
United Nations

COVID-19 will disproportionately hit the world’s poorest countries both as a health catastrophe and an event that will destabilise economies and social structures. This will take some into the realm of fragile states and already fragile states will be driven deeper into indigence.

We are all familiar with the advice from our Health Authorities that helps keep us safe from COVID:

  • Keep your 1.5/2 metre distance
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Limit contact with family and friends and workplaces

However, in countries where large families may share single room homes, and workers can be tightly packed into factories manufacturing textiles, physical distancing is impossible. In addition, 75% of people in least developed countries lack access to the primary means of infection prevention, soap and water.

Many of these countries are where our Foundation is active, including Cambodia, Nepal and India, as well as four Pacific countries – Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

These factors already pose a huge challenge to preventing COVID, but then we look at the way in which COVID can be treated, more challenges arise. Cambodia has just 0.8 hospital beds for every 1000 people and in Bangladesh there are just 1100 ICU beds for a population of more than 160 million.

"COVID-19 will not just be a health crisis, but an economic crisis"
Lisa Bricknell

In many developing nations, the economic shock of the crisis has come first, as governments have locked down their economies to reduce the speed of contagion. As a result, countries in Africa and Latin America, as well as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, are expected to suffer their greatest ever economic decline.

As a result of the many factors that make those in developing nations more vulnerable than those in developed nations, our response in developing nations also needs to be different. The issue needs to be addressed across different sectors:

  • Health
  • Agriculture and food security
  • Education
  • Youth
  • Social, small and medium enterprise
  • Community engagement

At the end of the webinar there was some great discussion around how we can support vulnerable communities during this time, with the resources and knowledge we may hold, but importantly how we need to listen to those in the community, who are experts in their own right and can educate us on what they need and how we can support them in this.

This is quite a brief overview of what was covered in the webinar, if you’d like to watch it and hear from Lisa, you can access it here.

webinar public health quote

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