Coronavirus and the Middle East. A transparency crisis

Articolo
Ghazal Poorhasan
middle east
Credit: CDC via AP

The coronavirus or COVID19 pandemic has already hit the world harshly. A virus that was at first not taken seriously, suddenly brought the health systems of many countries on their knees. Lack of hospital beds, personnel and critical facilities in time of peace, is a very alarming sign of how the world is unprepared for a pandemic crisis.
In a time that all the governments should prioritize safety and health, the cracks in the systems and lack of transparency is exposing itself vividly.

Iran, after China and Italy is in the third rank of fighting with the high number of confirmed cases and death. It means that Middle East is highly in danger of the coronavirus spreadout as dangerously as Europe. The question here is, how much the region is ready to cope with this very crisis?

The lack of transparency seen in many Middle Eastern countries, lack of legitimacy which brings concerns over the possible reactions of people, exposure of the inefficiency of the system (especially when the system is being represented by a charismatic leader whose figure should not be questioned by failure), and finally fragile economies that can break down easily, are the main reasons of the governments to resist informing the world about the level of the virus outbreak and their challenges to cope with it.

Therefore, it is not clear how this virus landed in these countries, and its presence has been announced simply after the heavy outbreak. Absence of a solution over how to figure out a way to manage the crisis along with the resistance of the governments to release the real data, increased the rumours which leads to collective panic.

Weak institutions, as one of the main characteristics of the Middle East, will make the challenge even more complicated, since corruption can fill the gaps and the cracks of the health system. From the other side, low public trust may cause an underestimation of the alarming warning or, in a contradictory behaviour, even not accepting as real the announcements by the governments and fall into the panic more than sticking with the reality of the facts.

Unfortunately there are always those who intend to take advantage of an emergency condition as it has already been seen in many cases: here is when a strong system is required to identify the corrupted spots.

In a region with on-going civil wars with many different players involved, and numbers of fragile and failed states such as Syria and Yemen, along with a great number of refugees, prisoners and people under poverty threshold that have no access to the healthcare system, an unmanaged crisis like the one brought by COVID19 pandemic may cause a catastrophe such that the rate of casualties could get totally out of control.

At the moment countries are so much keen in isolating themselves from others, closing the borders, banning the travelling along with many other regulations that seem to be effective for the time being. However there is a need to shift to a transnational coordination with more effort towards transparency to stop the crisis that is attacking all the world. After all, the governments will find ways to manage this very crisis too, but the recovery process will all depend on the how transparent the governments were to mark their shortcomings. Ultimately, transparency will overcome the coronavirus and here is again another example of how the world is feeling the strong need of a global response to help those who are more fragile.

(You can read the last article by Ghazal Poorhasan here)

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