According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 1.2 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty. The impact and psychological trauma for these individuals struggling to survive and fighting for access to basic amenities such as food, water and necessary medical care, is unimaginable. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic heightening these issues, Doctors Worldwide is increasingly concerned for the mental health and wellbeing of those in low-resource settings. We believe that access to quality healthcare is not a privilege but a human right, and that the increased development and investment in healthcare systems in low-resource settings can have a significant positive impact on the mental health of the most vulnerable.
We are currently working to support and develop the emergency healthcare system with our DICE Programme in Bangladesh, which is host to the Rohingya refugees. We are also working in Malawi on our Health Systems Strengthening Project, where 75% of their 17 million population live on less than £1 a day. In 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranked Malawi as the 3rd poorest country in the world: Malawi has 2 doctors for every 100,000 population in comparison to the EU average of 340.
Maureen is an active 56 year old widow living in the UK. She loves gardening and socialising, and you never see her looking less than a million dollars. After the pandemic hit and the UK went into lockdown, Maureen’s mental health started to deteriorate. She went from being an active and happy socialite, to a withdrawn and anxious person. As the lockdown persisted, Maureen’s mental health deteriorated. She is now sectioned under the Mental Health Act due to the impact of isolation and COVID lockdown on her mental well being. Today, she remains in hospital, dreading the day when she will be sent home and wishing to remain there indefinitely.
Whilst facing these difficulties, Maureen is able to access the UK National Health Service, which provides free care, an ambulance service, daily meals and medication as well as ongoing mental health support. However, Maureen has still been hit hard by the pandemic to the point that her own home, once a sanctuary and place of retreat, has now become a prison she would rather swap for a mental health ward.
For millions around the world living in vulnerable and impoverished situations and on less than £1 per day, this same healthcare system does not exist to support them. Whilst many may face similar challenges to Maureen, they remain unsupported. Lockdown and the pandemic is a death sentence, especially for those who rely on daily labour for their wages.
Right now, there are thousands of parents making the decision to feed some of their children over providing medication for another – a grim reality only exacerbated by the lack of healthcare access and COVID. The impact on mental health is only too real for these families, with 79% of suicides occurring in low and middle-income countries and a global shortage of adequate mental healthcare (WFMH).
Today, let us remember those individuals who are suffering in silence, unable to afford the healthcare they need. Support the Doctors Worldwide Life Saving Fund to provide medical care across all of our projects around the world.
*Pseudonyms have been used for all individuals referred to in this post, in order to protect their identity.