According to 2017 census, nearly 63% of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas. Johnson in 2003 summarized that pandemics in modern infrastructure spread by moving down the urban hierarchy, being dispersed across the country by the transport networks to cities, towns and villages. World has become global village and spread of pandemic is more rapid than the Spanish flu lasting from January 1918 to December 1920 being the deadliest pandemic. COVID-19 outbreak affected the globe irrespective of the health facilities and economic growth putting countries on lockdown. Lack of basic health facilities makes villagers prone to health challenges more than urban population.
In such circumstances when the developed economies are unable to cope up with the devastation by this pandemic, our rural areas are in more danger with inadequate healthcare facilities than the urban areas. It’s not only the inadequacy of healthcare facilities but unwillingness of people to practice social distancing and unawareness of the severity of the condition. They are welcoming people from cities and even from affected countries thus putting their own community at risk. No one discriminates us on our religious preferences but our irresponsible actions can destroy the community as a whole.
Keeping villagers in quarantine for a longer period is also problematic because most of them belong to poor or lower middle class families. Their source of income is agriculture or most of them are daily wage laborers. Although a lot of people are doing charity for them but if conditions last for longer period, it would be difficult to manage. Apart from that the state and its institution neither kept health as priority nor prepared for health calamity. Villagers in Pakistan have already been fighting with poverty, inequality, ignorance and resource management. Access to media and technology made it easier to convey information to remote areas but misinformation at the same time. Misinformation leads to chaos and anxiety. This chaos made people afraid of COVID-19 rather than motivating them to fight against the pandemic practicing social distancing and isolation.
During these hard times when our health officials in urban areas don’t have the access to PPE, it is the dire need of the day to convince people in our rural setting to stay at home. Villagers being away from the cities are privileged enough by having natural social distance.
It is pertinent to shift the concentration of government policies from urban to rural communities for better health facilities. Steps taken during this pandemic will be helpful in future to deal with such conditions. We should strengthen our rural communities to deal with natural calamities and disasters for a better and developed nation.
by: Ayesha Mushtaq