When you wage a war against injustice (or a virus), then you mobilize everyone. The fight against the coronavirus has been exceptional for two reasons:
1. 3/4 of the world population is immobilized by political decision, requested to stay at home and do nothing
2. Today there are more casualties from the side effects from the attempts to contain the virus than caused by the virus.
The observations are summarized in 2 editorials: 1. When you fight a war .... 2. From unintended consequences to collateral damage.
I look forward to receive your feedback.
Syndicated Article by Gunter Pauli May 16, 2020
When decisions are made in haste, seldom can one foresee all the consequences. Whatever the impact beyond the original objective of eliminating “the bad”, (he spread of a virus), are considered unintended consequences. However, once the facts are on the table, and the adverse side-effects are documented, it is necessary to take corrective measures. If the decision-maker knows that actions taken deeply affect the livelihood of people beyond the original objective, and takes no steps to mitigate the negative impact, then these are no longer unintended consequences, International Law qualifies these, as collateral damage.
We must remind ourselves that the International Court of Justice qualifies unintended effects as collateral damage based on three parameters: (1) necessity, (2) distinction, (3) proportionality. First the court determines if the inflicted pain was necessary and unavoidable under the circumstances.
Then it asserts if the decisions were made intentionally to achieve a specific objective (reduce number of people infected) and differentiated from the adverse impact on the rest of the population. Finally, the numbers of the adverse effects (especially death toll) must be considerably less compared with the benefits obtained for society at large (number of people saved).
While everyone recognizes that these three conditions are up for arbitrary interpretations, the following assessment indicates that an overwhelming majority of the policy makers lack understanding of the collateral damage they have caused (and are causing) in the process of trying to handle this pandemic.
Worse, it seems that some policy makers decided to wage an ideological war “to protect the people” ignoring the facts that they are causing even more damage beyond their objectives. Let us look at reality before us.
1. The UN warns: 1.2 million children could die in the next six months
Three quarters of the world’s children live in a country with a stay-at-home order. This unleashed the most lethal hazard of the pandemic: fear. Hospitals around the world report that they are empty, except for the emergency ward converted into a coronavirus ward. Midwives do not deliver babies anymore, expectant mothers are scared to get too close, and routine check-ups for mother and child have collapsed in most countries. Expecting mothers, parents of young children, simply do not go to the doctor anymore out of fear, or when they do it is too late.
The mass media creates a psychosis of fear with singular and even obsessive attention on four simplistic numbers pertaining to: (1) the number of people infected; (2) the number of patients in intensive care; (3) the number of people recovered; and, (4) the number of people who passed away. However the handling of the pandemic translates into harsh new statistics which are never reported: the child mortality rate caused by the decisions to contain the virus. John Hopkins University (USA) estimates that an additional 1.2 million children could die before their fifth birthday in the next 6 months! The mortality rate of mothers will increase by one third. This is the worst absolute number since 1960. This translates into1.5 million fatalities (and rising), 5 times the present death toll of the virus (and rising).
Politicians who claim “to save the poor from imminent death” are de facto condemning people to lead a life in fear and cause a death toll higher than the impact of the virus. This is collateral damage.
2. 135 million people are marching towards the brink of starvation
The imposition of a house arrest that confines as a standard 10 people to 20 square meters in shanty towns without running water or access to any food with the police enforcing the lockdown creates disastrous living conditions. The lockdowns are blocking access to food and water. These measures also keep poor people from earning their daily allowance, especially single mothers who make a living cleaning and cooking. Street vendors who provide a cushion in the economy for the poorest of the poor saw their client base evaporate. The perishable goods they used to sell straight from the farms are rotting away, depriving the countryside of much needed cash to survive.
Social distancing has disastrously slashed their income to zero. The world is facing a pandemic-induced hunger wave. The United Nations statistics added in May 2020 more than 135 million people suffering from hunger! The UN expects that a prolongation of the lockdown will double the number. Which means that in 2020 the world will count 1.15 billion people suffering from hunger, up from 880 million just one year ago. The subsequent dramatic growth in malnutrition leads to a death toll ten times higher from hunger caused by policies that were intended to protect people from the coronavirus. This is collateral damage.
3. Death from Suicide and Home Violence outpaces Coronavirus.
While pandemic-induced deaths described above may affect mainly Africa, Asia and Latin America, the third unfolding drama is suicide and home violence. This is even the worst in Europe and North America. First, the lockdown forces millions of women to be confined in a limited space with their abusers. Second, it has been estimated that the number of suicides hits all-time high. The number these victims in half of the 118 countries that impose a strict stay-home orders and social distancing is more than victims of the coronavirus.
The case of Colombia is shocking: with only 525 recorded fatalities from the virus to date, the estimated number of additional suicides and home murders is at least double that! Still the Mayor of Bogota fights the Central Government to permit a real opening of the country and the economy. Home violence reaches now a “guesstimate" of more than 100 per 100,000 citizens in Bogota (from 69/100,000 reported in 2015).
One third of the violence harms children. We are talking about 3,000 additional severe cases of violence caused by this mandatory lockdown of people in homes as small as 20 square meters! The number of suicides is estimated to double in the age group most affected by this dramatic lockdown: 500 young men between 20-24!
The increase in the total number of suicides in Colombia will surpass by those who succumbed to the virus. We have to be very careful with the number of suicides and fatalities from home violence since most Governments censure the media. Informal data gathering seem to confirm that the numbers are shooting through the roof, but the media is prohibited from reporting such facts. The censure and oppression of real news is worse than the spreading of fake news. How can politicians stick rigidly to the forced stay-home and even obsessive social distancing to fight the virus when the statistics from suicide and violence outnumber the oversimplified statistics of the virus. This is collateral damage.
4. The mafia is taking control of the situation.
The strict lockdown imposed by Governments cuts the revenues of criminal organizations (the mafia) whose traditional income from prostitution, drugs and extortion are crippled by the lockdown. This “gain" is fraught with complacency. The mafia always gains force when in crisis. The stay-at-home order eliminates income for those who live day by day. The incapacity to get to the street “to sell, clean car windows or steal” creates a painful shortage of cash. The mafia is a willing lender, especially to micro enterprises. They bankroll the operators of fledgling street businesses who are left without any clients. The mafia provides loans, organizes food, cellphone time, customers and deliveries. Then asks those who received money to hire someone, a favor that is difficult to refuse. Within no time the new person will manage the business with or without the will of the owner. The beneficiary of the “generous loans” is converted into a front man. The mafia will exploit position, relations, government funding and banking relations. Once the situation shifted, prostitution, drugs and extortion will count on a new web of business.
Fresh fruits are rotting away, medical supplies are in short supply due to closed airports, hence the mafia will undertake an aggressive move to control the supply chain of fruits, vegetables and medical supplies. The counterfeiting, substandard masks, gloves and pharmaceuticals, plus risky farm pick-ups and home deliveries buys allegiance and dependency. This is not collateral damage but a major loss for civil society. Politicians who pretend “to save the poor”, actually hand them over to the mafia! Continue to contain the virus without collateral damage.
Governments must face that they are responsible for collateral damage and the increased power of the mafia. The number of deaths caused due to hunger, lack of sought medical services, suicide and home violence as a direct result of the (mis)management of the pandemic by far outnumbers the individuals who succumbed to the virus.
The trends are getting worse by the day. As a result, it is urgent to curb the negative impacts with smart decisions. Governments which refuse to correct the course one day could be judged in Court for knowingly causing unnecessary harm causing a death toll that is blatantly disproportionate to the original intentional objective and fostered the rise of the mafia. Since the information is out, no politician can pretend “That he or she did not know”!
For more information you can download for free “100 Questions” (available in English, French, Italian and Spanish.)
The aim of this blog is to present a fresh look at realities around us. Whereas I do not pretend to present the truth nor a definite position, I do wish to push the reader to think beyond the obvious. After all, time has come to dramatically improve the plight of millions, and that requires more than the predictable. Sometimes it forces us into spheres of discomfort.