Solidarity needed not state brutality

by Daphna Whitmore

A one size fits all approach to COVID around the world is seeing more countries adopting lockdowns. As I wrote in an earlier piece the need for an enforced lockdown is questionable on many levels especially as there are countries that have managed the C-19 infections without a lockdown, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and Sweden.

In the West lockdowns have led to a huge rise in unemployment. Livelihoods have vanished  and three million people became jobless overnight in the US. There are over 50 million Americans who live from pay cheque to pay cheque who are facing an even more precarious future. In New Zealand over a million workers are now on a wage subsidy and there is uncertainty about how many will have jobs to return to. The NZ Treasury is anticipating unemployment to reach 10% at best and 26% at worst. That is after the government has poured billions of dollars into the economy to try to stop a collapse. The economic hardship will cost lives and cause misery. In the developing countries this will be many times worse, especially where there are repressive regimes.

In India millions of people were forced to leave Mumbai and other megacities and make their way back to their villages, sometimes having to travel on foot for days in the heat. Slum dwellers cannot survive a lockdown as they live day to day and have no reserves. The notion of a lockdown in this setting is completely absurd and barbaric.

In the Philippines the problem is similar as there is endemic poverty, corruption and a fascistic government. In a zoom presentation on 15 April, organised by the Auckland Philippines Solidarity group,   MP Renato Reyes and Dr. Gene Nisperos spoke to unionists and progressives in New Zealand.

They said the lockdown has been in place in the Philippines since March 15, however the first case was in January and nothing was done. It was not until 3 April that PPE arrived and 14 April that targetted testing was started. Testing is at low numbers only 2000 to 2500 per day (in a population of 106 million) and there is no clear picture of the spread of the infection. The government sees it as a law and order issue and many government agencies are headed by former generals. President Duterte even threatened to shoot anyone disobeying the lockdown. This outraged the public and there were over 500,000 tweets in protest.

They spoke of the lack of a clear strategy from the government and how little has been achieved during the lockdown. Most of the action has been preparation of hospitals and very little to mobilise the responsiveness of the communities. There are low staffing levels in hospitals and this is worsened when staff have to be quarantined when infected with COVID. There are just 1500 respirators in the country and little PPE, which has to be imported.

There is  a lack of transparency and reliable data. In the main island Luzon because of the lockdown millions are dependent on government support as they have no income. Food relief is not coming in or is not sufficient. Due to hunger and desperation people are forced to leave home to seek food. Government resources are being used to suppress the public rather than provide the necessities. There have been more people arrested than tested.

Despite the difficulties the people’s movement in the Philippines is mobilising resitstance. The people have put pressure on the government forcing them to acknowledge that the distribution of aid has been very slow. There is a lot of online organising and they are using social media to fundraise for people in need. There have been spontaneous actions when people have left their homes out of desperation for food.

The resistance continues and the people are looking to the future, determined to roll back the loss of civil liberties. Below is a call for international solidarity from the ILPS an international grouping of progressive organisations and migrant workers.

 

MIGRANTE INTERNATIONAL JOINS ILPS COMMISSION 15 IN THE GLOBAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH, NOT PRIVATE PROFIT

Claiming 126,681 COVID-19 deaths worldwide and counting, this pandemic draws our rage against the rottenness of the Capitalist system which has prioritized private profit over human lives. Neoliberalism plagues the healthcare system through the imperialist dictated-policy of privatization in health care and medical services. As the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered the capacity of workers to produce goods and services, the world is now in the midst of the worst global economic downturn in the 21st century.

Migrants, refugees and displaced people are troubled by travel bans, lockdowns and closures of national borders. Many are even scared to get medical testing for fear of arrest and detention. Worst of all, migrants are scapegoated and being blamed for spreading the disease. At the border between Chile and Bolivia, the Bolivian military is denying entry to their own citizens who simply want to return home. In Hongkong, Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers are being barred by their employers to go out during their rest days so many are forced to stay in and work. The risk of transmission is very high among detained migrants locked up in overcrowded detention centers under unsanitary conditions. Little attention is also being given to the health and wellbeing of seafarers. Without safety nets, access to basic needs and legal protection at this time of pandemic and recession, the pain and suffering of migrants are just unimaginable.

In the Philippines, many OFWs and their families are left excluded by the Duterte regime from receiving aid and relief. Even OFW frontliners themselves are not on the list of those who will receive cash assistance from the Philippine government. Aside from the remittances they contribute, OFWs are financially squeezed dry through state exactions before and after their deployment but whenever they face troubles like the COVID-19 pandemic and recession they get nothing in return.

The Duterte regime has also attempted to stop the deployment of Filipino nurses overseas. It back-pedaled after it met strong opposition from healthcare workers and their advocates. Nurses in the Philippines are not only overworked and underpaid but they are forced to work in overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed hospitals. There is nothing universal about Duterte’s much vaunted “Universal Healthcare Law” and it has been exposed as a scam to subsidize private profit. Aside from terrible working conditions, the absence of genuine universal health care in the Philippines is among the factors that push Filipinos to seek better lives overseas just to support the healthcare needs of their loved ones. Now that countries are reeling from the debilitating impacts of COVID-19, migrants are not only losing their jobs due to retrenchments, they are left stranded and neglected. Even more terrible is Duterte’s militarist response to a public health emergency situation that actually requires immediate medical and socioeconomic solutions.

Without national pharmaceutical industries and research facilities, the Philippines and many countries in the Global South are forced to rely on private-foreign suppliers of medical resources like PPEs, vaccines, and medicines. Poor countries are not only being preyed upon by large multinational pharmaceutical companies, they are likewise being taken advantage of by international financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF that offer loan programs accompanied by sets of conditions that enforce neoliberal policies.

Migrante International is one with the ILPS Commission 15 in calling on all migrants to forge stronger solidarity with all the oppressed peoples of the world. We give the highest salute to all frontliners for their commitment as well as to all migrant organizations and institutions who continue to give aid and support to migrants in distress. As we charge forward against COVID-19, there are larger evils that we need to contend with and these are the plagues of neoliberalism and imperialist aggression. Let us reclaim public health from Capitalist greed!

Public health, not private profit!

Free mass testing and treatment for all!

Bailout working people! Not big corporations! 

Social protection for the masses!

Respect democratic and human rights!

One comment

Comments are closed.