Coronavirus Lockdown is a Worst-Case Scenario for Many People
In India, Ramesh Kumar lies awake at night wondering how he will feed his family when the food in their house runs out. Because of the virus, He hasn’t earned a rupee since his store was shut down, and his family is running low on basic staples and supplies. Left without a steady income, Ramesh’s children will likely go hungry.
In France, a frightened, battered woman nurses her black eye. Her husband’s recent unemployment has only exacerbated his alcoholism and abusive behavior. The coronavirus lockdown has left her with no escape from his physical and verbal cruelty, and her part-time position was completely wiped out when France implemented the lockdown.
As more stringent restrictions come into effect, everyone is feeling the effects of COVID-19, but some groups, such as abuse victims and low-income families are experiencing the worst hardship of their lives. While many non-essential employees are able to ride out lockdowns from their Wi-Fi-connected homes surrounded by their families, quarantine snacks, and comfy blankets, being on lockdown will unleash Hell on two vulnerable groups for many weeks and months to come.
Domestic Abuse Victims Will Suffer
Many states have issued shelter-in-place orders that restrict travel outside the home for non-essential purposes. While these orders are undoubtedly necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus, victims of domestic violence now find themselves in an unprecedented situation. Without the ability to escape to work or to the homes of their friends and family, abused men and women are silently suffering. Some crisis centers remain open, but for many victims of domestic abuse, these help centers aren’t enough, and they certainly aren’t a fix-all.
Not only are victims spending more time at home, but their abusers are too. In the United States, unemployment claims have exceeded record numbers with over 3.3 million workers displaced due to the coronavirus. Every year, almost five million women suffer from domestic abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. Advocates fear that this number will spike dramatically as abusive partners and their victims are locked down together.
The French government has responded to the inevitable spike in domestic violence by offering paid hotel rooms to women in need. Popup counseling sites and a 1.1-million-dollar allocation to anti-abuse organizations have been approved by the French government after Paris saw a 36% increase in domestic violence reports. In the United States, crisis centers are struggling to pull together the resources necessary to respond to the larger caseload. Victims in need of medical attention are hesitant to seek proper care due to coronavirus fears.
Coronavirus lockdowns have exacerbated and highlighted the severity of domestic abuse, yet very little is being done to ensure the safety of the men, women, and children trapped in abusive households. If anything, they seem like an afterthought.
Hungry Children Around the World
An article from BBC News describes the impact of lockdowns on Indian families’ ability to put food on the table. Many of India’s citizens have expressed more concern over starvation than the coronavirus, primarily in poor villages where shops have closed available work has dried up completely. In India, 90% of workers rely on informal labor to get by. Jobs like rickshaw pulling, garbage collecting, and street vending are some people’s livelihoods. Without the need for these roles, many citizens will go unpaid and hungry for much longer than the lockdown order lasts.
While some Indian state governments have promised help to these workers, the assistance can’t come soon enough. Many of these workers make just enough each day to meet the daily needs of their family and not a rupee more. A day without pay means a day that their children go hungry.
In the United States, many local businesses, churches, and individuals have stepped up to the plate to provide meals to school children who’ve been displaced because of COVID-19. Although many schools are continuing to provide meals, some students won’t have access to them due to a lack of transportation or knowledge of the program’s existence.
According to NPR, almost 30 million children in the U.S. depend on free and reduced school meals to fill their tummies. As essential workers scramble to find childcare and displaced workers struggle to pay their bills, let alone put food on the table for their children, it is becoming obviously clear just how important schools are to low-income families. Some of the same students that rely on their school for meals also depend on it as their safe haven, so why do public schools continue to be underfunded, especially in poorer areas that need it the most?
Large-Scale Action Must Occur, But We Can All Help Out
For these two groups, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have ravaged their sense of physical and mental security. While efforts to enforce social distancing are undoubtedly necessary, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed more light on domestic violence, poverty, and hunger.
It has been easy to identify and protect groups who are vulnerable to the virus itself. Through self-isolation and social distancing efforts, those at an increased risk of dying from COVID-19 can protect themselves. Identifying and protecting those impacted by the lockdowns needs to be a priority, too.
So far, government responses to skyrocketing unemployment rates, starving children, and worsened domestic abuse cases have been slow at best. Many Americans living paycheck to paycheck have been laid off for several weeks already, and unemployment services are backed up beyond belief, allowing plenty of time for pantries to become empty and toxic living situations to reach their breaking point.
There is only so much that individuals and businesses can do to help. While efforts to feed children and shelter battered women should be recognized and appreciated, it’s going to take stronger, swifter responses from governments around the world to ensure the safety of these demographics during pandemic lockdowns.
When the pandemic finally comes to an end and life begins to return to normal, it will ultimately be up to us to keep the conversation about these issues going. For every coronavirus meme on social media, there should be a post advocating for these groups who may not have access to the proper education and resources to get help. Unfortunately, I fear that the issues that have been brought to light will disappear as quickly as the memes when all this is over.
Many people reading this have the ability to help in some way. Even if you can’t donate your time or money, joining the conversation on social media will increase the chance that efforts will be made to protect vulnerable groups in the future. At the very least, you can practice social distancing to help flatten the curve and end this pandemic sooner so these vulnerable groups can get some relief.