Tabitha Agaba is a journalist and writer interested in issues of inequality, accountability, and transparency. She’s based in Kampala, Uganda. This piece exposes the economic disparities that people have suffered through during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been several measures taken, and lockdowns have been widely used as a containment and preventative measure.
And so have the messages of encouragement from across the globe, especially the message of “we are in this together.”
However, we aren’t in this together. Since the lockdowns emerged, people’s lives have changed. The underlying issues that have been ignored and tolerated have been highlighted, loudly and clearly.
One of the issues is inequality. According to the Cambridge dictionary, inequality can be defined as the unfair situation in society when some people have more opportunities, money, etc. than other people.
An example of this inequality is with how different people have dealt or have been affected by this pandemic. As some individuals left their usual homes to their vacation homes, others were and still are struggling to keep their home, and even fewer find space to keep social distance.
While others stocked up when rumours circulated of an impending lockdown, others began to worry about their survival because what they make is what they eat.
Some governments promised to provide relief food to the vulnerable people, but some of them didn’t receive it, or even when they did, it was either poisoned or of poor quality.
A case in point in Uganda, almost two months since the lockdown was announced some people haven’t received the promised food while some have received poor quality food. And Uganda’s neighbour to the east, Kenya, with a partial lockdown, food distribution has been taking place, however there have been allegations that some of the distributed food was of poor quality and this was owing to politics.
Some Kenyans in Nairobi also lost their homes owing to forced evictions. These are a few of the examples of inequality.
A conversation on inequality is important and long overdue.
The causes of this inequality can be mitigated. There have been calls for better and more accommodative systems that will include better pay, better healthcare and overall better welfare systems and to ensure a much better and much fairer world.
One of the key issues that have aided this inequality is capitalism.
Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.
The continuous system of profits over wellbeing should be one that is checked as we prepare for the world after the pandemic.
In most cases, capitalism also contributes to a lack of proper functioning systems to keep exploiting and widening the equality gap.
As quoted in the in an article by Grace Ten, “Covid-19: Exposing exacerbating global Inequality”, Mandeep Dhaliwal, director of HIV/AIDS and human rights at the United Nations Development Programme asked how can people protect themselves from Covid-19 where the most vulnerable don’t have a right to quality basic services, health, education, social protection, social safety nets; where they don’t have adequate standards of living conditions; where they don’t have access to food or have access to water.
The question over the lack of systems that can protect and support people has been more highlighted by this pandemic.
This lack of systems here in Uganda has seen most low-income earners opting to walk kilometres while others sleep at their places of work because there’s isn’t a guarantee of basic needs such as food, shelter, or healthcare just to mention a few.
On 15th April 2020, one of the local media houses ran a story about a disc jockey (DJ) who lost his source of income and decided to go back and stay with his mother, a market vendor to support him.
This is one of the many examples of the struggle some people are coming to terms with following the announcement of a lockdown.
As the lockdown has continued to put a lot of things to a halt, some companies have started laying off their staff, suspending contracts and for the few lucky ones they are paid less than the usual salaries.
The lack of social systems to assist people during such time of crisis is a cause for alarm and reflection.
Systems that aren’t able to take care of their people need to be done away with.
Despite the government’s promise to provide food to vulnerable people, some people may not qualify for this kind of assistance.
It won’t get better if we don’t fight to move or shake and change the current status quo.
To challenge the current inequalities means an acknowledgement of them.
To acknowledge the different privilege positions that people sit in and make decisions without considering the less privileged is maddening but it is a reality.
It is a reality that people seek to make decisions from their cushioned seats.