In a post-pandemic world, it is time for us to reevaluate what basic human rights look like worldwide. If you look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, you will see that the most basic needs every one has are those of food, water, shelter and sleep. These are the most basic building blocks of life that everyone needs, at a bare minimum, to survive.
I would also add healthcare as a basic human need, because people can die of preventable causes without access to proper healthcare.
In an industrialized world, we should be able to provide for these most basic of needs to everyone worldwide. We have the finances and resources to do so, and yet, there are people starving and homeless across our world. Even in wealthy countries like the United States.
This just goes to show the inequities of our predominately capitalistic society, where money and profit are valued above human life. We need to rethink our way of living, so that we can provide the necessities of life to everyone in our world.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
During the pandemic, there were many people who died due to lack of healthcare, even in wealthy countries like the United States.
According to the World Health Organization,
Twenty countries, representing approximately 50% of the global population, account for over 80% of the estimated global excess mortality for the January 2020 to December 2021 period. These countries are Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States of America (USA).
During the pandemic, there were extreme amounts of people who died due to not being able to access proper medical care for their condition. As hospitals flooded with patients needing care, people with other health conditions were sometimes turned away for treatment because of the toll that COVID-19 was taking.
According to Our World in Data,
The pandemic may result in increased deaths from other causes for a number of reasons including weakened healthcare systems; fewer people seeking treatment for other health risks; or less available funding and treatment for other diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis).
In the United States, healthcare has gotten too expensive. Many people are either uninsured or underinsured. Although this has been the case for years, the pandemic highlighted these inequalities because of the sheer numbers of people falling ill at the same time.
While some people are able to seek preventative care and treatments for their illnesses immediately, others are forced to wait and seek treatment at an emergency room only if they become extremely ill.
When not everyone can seek treatment on an equal basis, it not only hurts the individuals, but society as a whole. If someone wasn't diagnosed or treated for COVID-19, they could be spreading the disease to others without knowing that they were doing so. This could lead to additional infections than what would have happened with a proper medical system.
For those without insurance, many people get so desperate that they resort to posting a Go-Fund-Me campaign on social media to get help with funding their treatments. This illustrates the huge gaps in our failing healthcare system.
According to The Hill,
If you follow the news or your social media feed, you know that crowdsourcing medical expenses is increasingly popular for financing health care costs. In fact, you might have contributed to one; 22 percent of American adults report donating to GoFundMe medical campaigns. As of 2021, approximately $650 million, or about one-third of all funds raised by GoFundMe, went to medical campaigns. That staggering amount of money highlights how dysfunctional our health care system is, forcing people to resort to crowdsourcing to afford their medical care — but it’s not surprising. In the United States, 62 percent of bankruptcies are related to medical costs. This should be a wake-up call to address and reform the system further.
If a country like the United States is struggling so badly to provide healthcare to citizens when it accounts for 31% of the world's wealth, something is badly wrong. The privatization of healthcare doesn't allow for everyone to be able to survive something like the COVID-19 pandemic.
People shouldn't have to go into bankruptcy or turn to a Go-Fund-Me just to be able to survive. And, then there are tragic stories of people whose Go-Fund-Me campaigns fall short, and they end up dying as a result.
The Outline discusses one such case:
Comic artist and writer Ted Closson wrote about his friend Shane, who died of diabetes-related complications in March. Shane set up a GoFundMe campaign to help him pay for insulin while waiting for his insurance to kick in. “He was $50 shy of his goal for over two weeks,” Closson said. “Shane died in horrible pain.”
There are no repercussions against the government, health insurers, hospitals, or anyone else when people die from lack of life-saving medical care. People just die alone and in pain, often of conditions that are treatable, because they simply cannot afford the cost.
Medicine shouldn't be a for-profit business.
We should value human life more than we value money.
Unfortunately, the failed American healthcare system shows that often this is not the case. People can't afford to go to the doctor or the dentist, so they just don't go. They end up dying as a result because they didn't have access to basic care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted these disparities in disease prevention and treatment in a way never seen before. Now, we are more aware than ever in the gaps in care between the rich and the poor, and something needs to be done about it.
Other industrialized countries like Canada and Germany have a public healthcare system which everyone has access to. The United States needs to institute something similar. Otherwise, we are all culpable in the needless deaths that are taking place every day.
Homelessness and Starvation
Other preventable causes of death across the world include homelessness and starvation. People die every day due to complications resulting from a lack of these basic building blocks of life.
According to the United Nations,
Each day, 25,000 people, including more than 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes. Some 854 million people worldwide are estimated to be undernourished, and high food prices may drive another 100 million into poverty and hunger. The risks are particularly acute among those who must spend at least 60 per cent of their income on food: the urban poor and displaced populations, the rural landless, pastoralists and the majority of smallholder farmers.
Again, these are all needless deaths that are predominately caused by a capitalist global society that values money over human life. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone. We just have an inequitable distribution of food relative to wealth.
When we went on a recent vacation to Egypt, we ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and my partner pointed out to our daughter the importance of taking only what you can eat. He told her that there was more food in that one room than some people will see in their entire lifetime. He wasn't wrong.
Some of us are privileged to always have enough to eat, while other people starve. It isn't just rich vs. poor countries either, people are even starving in the United States on a daily basis. We need to do what we can to ensure that people aren't starving to death, even in places where food is readily available.
In addition to starvation, there is the problem of homelessness, and all of the other associated problems that come with being homeless. When people become homeless, they are sleeping out in the cold without a safe place to go.
According to The Guardian,
People without a home face three times the risk of death of the general population, according to a local analysis of 2017 to 2019 deaths by Los Angeles county health department’s center for health impact evaluation. It found homeless people in LA were 35 times more likely to die of drug or alcohol overdose, 16 times more likely to die of traffic-related injuries, such as being hit by a car, and 14 times more likely to be the victim of homicide.
Since homelessness is associated with so many additional risks, it is imperative that we as a society work to make sure that everyone has a home, and no one is out in the cold anymore. Although there is a stigma that homeless people are drug users, there are also many people that are homeless due to mental health reasons, loss of a job, or skyrocketing housing costs. Some of these people are families with children. Many of them are working.
There is currently a lack of affordable housing in the United States that has reached epic proportions, as housing costs continue to rise much faster than wages. This can cause people to be evicted and lose their homes, even when they are working.
In some major cities, people would have to work as much as 120 hours per week at the minimum wage to be able to rent a one-bedroom home. That is as much as three full time jobs.
By allowing housing costs to rise so dramatically in the last decade, and wages to stagnate during the same period of time, the housing crisis has become staggering. It isn't just in third-world countries that people are homeless and living on the street. It is happening in the richest country in the world too.
Being able to have access to a safe home and food should be basic rights of every human being worldwide.
Working Towards a Solution
In order to provide all people with their basic human rights, we need to pull together and show compassion for people who are struggling. Too many people are living without having their basic needs being met. Too many people are dying every day from easily preventable causes.
So much of it has to do with an inequality in wealth. We need to find a way to redistribute wealth to those who are the most in need. In addition to raising the minimum wage, we could also institute a Universal Basic Income.
According to Investopedia,
Universal basic income (UBI) is a government program in which every adult citizen receives a set amount of money regularly. The goals of a basic income system are to alleviate poverty and replace other need-based social programs that potentially require greater bureaucratic involvement.
By instituting a program like Universal Basic Income, there would be a safety net for everyone, to ensure that they aren't homeless and starving. It would meet people's basic needs, and allow them to live rather than merely scraping by to survive, or dying in the streets.
Although no country currently has Universal Basic Income, the State of Alaska has had this since 1982. There are currently pilot programs going on in England and Wales, and it has been tried in Finland as well.
Detractors of a program like Universal Basic Income say that it would make people less likely to work, and more dependent on the state for welfare. However, it would help many people to rise above the poverty line and out of homelessness forever.
As more and more people come to this view, plans for Universal Basic income are being considered in different countries across the globe. This is a good sign for a better future for everyone, especially those who are continuously struggling in poverty.
We need to change as a society and learn to view all human life with compassion, instead of letting social Darwinism win out. The more we treat everyone like they have value, the more we can all come together as a human race worldwide. Treating others with respect and compassion can help to create a better and more caring society where every life is valued.
By meeting the basic needs of everyone, not only can we prevent thousands of needless deaths, but we can take so many people out of survival mode, and give them a chance at actually living instead.