Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday March 26, 2022
Neo-colonialism and the Covid response
Approximately 35 per cent of the world’s population has not received at least one dose, while more than 42 per cent of the world’s population has not been fully vaccinated. One can easily observe the inequitable distribution of vaccines between the Global North and the Global South.
In a globalised world, the Covid19 pandemic tested human immunity and the relevance of global international health regulations to fight it at the individual and global levels, respectively. The pandemic has demonstrated how unprepared we were, as warned by public health experts, and it should be a wake-up call to not let it happen again.
The pandemic has also exposed that control and power do not necessitate invasion or military control over poor and less developed countries. In the modern world, power and control exist in different forms, unlike in the old history of colonialism.
One can observe significant distinctions regarding the emergence of global health in the 1990s and early 2000s, which has become a tool for influencing country-led decisions (primarily rich countries) in favour of aid-giving countries – a sort of soft power political control. These relationships built on reliance, subjection and Shylock-like indebtedness are problematic in their intent and consequence.
Nonetheless, they work in a colonial paradigm through public and global health, humanitarian aid, international non-governmental organisations and global health governance. Let us look closely at the Covid19 pandemic and how the new form of neo-colonial power unfolded. Low-income countries do not have substantial fiscal space to provide stimulus packages. Rich countries have this advantage to make progress in reviving their economy faster. Lowincome countries face the double burden of saving lives and recovering economic losses.
Against this backdrop, vaccinating people against the deadly viruses that we have seen in a long time makes an enormous difference in saving lives and making a remarkable economic recovery. Vaccination statistics show that 79 per cent of the population in wealthy and upper middle-income countries received at least a single dose compared to 14 per cent in low-income countries.
Approximately 35 per cent of the world’s population has not received at least one dose, while more than 42 per cent of the world’s population has not been fully vaccinated. One can easily observe the inequitable distribution of vaccines between the Global North and the Global South. For instance, the People’s Vaccine Alliance reported that Canada possesses enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to jab each citizen five times over.
Meanwhile, low-income countries only have enough vaccines to protect one out of 10 people. Moreover, nearly two years after the pandemic outbreak that has cost almost 6 million lives, critical plans to speed up vaccination access have stagnated. Most importantly, the underdeveloped countries fell prey to a substantial nexus between wealthy nations and giant firms like Moderna/Pfizer because of their hesitancy to transfer technology and patent rights.
It is a wake-up call to revamp a global treaty or convention to avoid future pandemics. And in order to avoid another pandemic, immediate action is required. Examining the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) might be a good beginning. It is not just a virus that we have to be concerned about; we also have to be worried about the health of populations, economy and labour market. The IHR is an international legal instrument that governs measures to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses across national borders. (The Statesman (India))