Forum: Choice between lives and livelihood not as obvious for the poor

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the verdict globally is unambiguous: Safety comes first (Nearly 7 in 10 people prioritise lives over livelihoods, global poll finds, May 6).

Overall, 67 per cent of the 13,200-plus people interviewed worldwide agreed with the statement: "The government's highest priority should be saving as many lives as possible even if it means the economy will recover more slowly."

Findings were based on fieldwork carried out in Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Britain and the United States.

According to the United Nations, more than one billion people around the world live in slums or informal settlements.

Millions more live in fragile and conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan and Sudan.

Are we hearing the voice of these marginalised individuals who are surviving lockdowns in dilapidated and inaccessible areas?

In many countries, people who live on the edge of poverty are hit the hardest during a pandemic.

Lacking government assistance and with lockdowns taking away their only means of sustenance, deprivation sets in.

For these people, their sufferings are more acute than the distant probability of a virus infection or death.

Unlike the privileged, who can hunker down and wait it out, the poor do not have the luxury to choose.

Lives or livelihoods, the answer is not as obvious as it may seem.

Chow Kok Fai

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