FreedomCOVID19 is a joint initiative of three organizations – ZMQ Development (India), ZMQ Africa (Uganda) and ZMQ Global (Canada). Seeing the COVID-19 pandemic and the sufferings of the communities especially poor, migrants and daily wage workers, it was decided to create a consortium to address the immediate challenges faced by these communities by providing them right communication and strategizing beyond relief to focus on future strategies like re-skilling and rehabilitation. The pandemic has shaken the world especially the poor – slum-dwellers, daily wage workers, refugees and under-privileged especially living in low and middle income countries that have earlier been socially excluded by systems – healthcare, livelihood opportunities, social justice etc. The millions of untold who were already struggling on the economic margins; their lives have been hit even harder by the pandemic lockdowns, layoffs and the loss of a chance to earn daily wages.
COVID-19 messaging is focused mostly for affluent. Did we ever think that would the poor be able to wash their hands if they don’t have running water or soap? Would the people living in congested slums be able to maintain social distancing? Would the daily wage workers be able to survive the lockdown? Would the refugees be able to stop crossing borders to flee atrocities of war? Social distancing, Lockdowns, Sanitizers and Hand washing is a privilege. Most of the ways to ward off COVID-19 are accessible only to the affluent.
Due to COVID-19, more than four out of five people in the global labour force of 3.3 billion have been hit by full or partial closure of workplaces. ILO (International Labour Organization) says that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed. The toll for families is hunger and poverty that are either newfound or even more grinding than before. The exodus of the poorest of the poor from urban settings to their far flung villages poses even a bigger threat; not just due increased chances of community spread of virus but more due to starvation, hunger and discrimination. COVID-19 is threatening to kill millions of poor. It is time to develop COVID response system to address different needs of these millions or maybe now the billions.is