How COVID-19 has exposed social failures and need of change

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For the past months, COVID-19 has spread all over the world, as well as misinformation, and social and economic issues. This situation has emphasized the social debts each nation owes to its community and how we need to re-think certain practices.

Nowadays, the world has slowed down its rhythm in productivity, or at least in what our system considers that being productive is. We have been sent home and been told to "stay safe, stay home" without many questioning the idea about whether a home is safe for everybody or what happens to those that are homeless. Here we have our first social debt: housing. To have a roof with decent living conditions should be a priority in every country, and yet there are over 100 million homeless people in the world and 2.1 billion lack access to a water supply. However, these are not the only problems related to housing and proper access to essential services: what about those people living in overcrowded situations? or those living near garbage dumps or highly polluted waters? to mention a few troublesome situations.

The fact that these circumstances are more dangerous in a global epidemic should not divert us from the fact that they are structural problems that we must change. It is equally true that the epidemic has highlighted some problems during the lockdown, such as domestic violence and the need for most effective public policies in that area.

Also, the lack of access to technology and the Internet is deepening inequality. In many countries, it is still considered a privilege and not a right, while schooling and jobs are shifting to a virtual modality. This aspect is not only about whether or not you have a computer or a cell phone, but also about how many people in your household have to share these items, and whether they can afford -or not- to pay for the increased electricity and Internet use.  At the same time, the quality of the practices carried out online comes into play, as well as our relationship with technology and the lack of training in the virtual world.

When it comes to the home office, many point out that they've been working much more than in offices, confinement has led to the loss of the spatial dimension between work and private life. Talking about work, the COVID-19 has also pointed out the precariousness and exploitation of labor. In recent years there has been a trend towards a labor model where the situation of workers became more liquid. In the current context, they are left adrift by not being able to work or by being fired, in many cases without compensation. Another aspect in the work field is the visibility of many jobs as essential, within which many of them are commonly denigrated, not regulated, and poorly paid, such as cleaning or delivery jobs.

There are a lot more social debts that we could mention, such as the alarming situation of the prison system, the collapse of the judicial system, the abuse of power by the security forces, global environmental situation, the issues of the international segmentation of production and the lack of a local one, proper access to health, among others. When we speak of health, it is important to emphasize that all the facts previously described are involved and that health is not the absence of sickness. The pandemic has also pointed out the importance of mental health, which is often overlooked, and the necessity of prevention and promotion programs on health.

I wonder if these debts will be seen as such, if they will be analyzed, if something will be changed, or if the epidemic will be used as a scapegoat by covering up, once again, the real problems in favor of the interests of a few. What I am sure of is that the answer lies in global articulation and change, in a system more linked to sustainability, community action, gender perspective, and cooperative activity. These are aspects that social organizations have been working on for years, which is why it is important to keep on claiming for these issues, to keep on making a critical analysis of the reality, and carry on working for community development and social equity.

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