STOCKHOLM – When I think back to the start of 2021, I remember the fear.
Panic about new variants and the exponential loss of lives globally as the coronavirus pandemic raged on.
The subsequent cautious optimism as vaccine rollout began and the heated discourse over its safety and implementation that followed.
More than that, I think of how who and where you are determines how much your life, your pain and your story is valued.
Throughout this period of vaccination and continued public precautions, everyone has undoubtedly stumbled across ‘anti-vaxxers’ proclaiming a global conspiracy is in action to kill humanity so that big pharmaceutical corporations can line their pockets.
Simultaneously, raging crowds demand boosters and a multitude of stories hit the news showing dubious individuals circumventing vaccine mandates en masse.
In the midst of this chaos, my focus drifts elsewhere. I think of those who do not have the option to engage in this never-ending debate. My thoughts travel across the globe to the people whose government’s gross negligence in handling the pandemic rendered thousands dead and hindered the protection of those still living.
While so many of us are head-to-head with the idea of this pandemic and its true capacity for harm, so many more have lived this nightmare and are scarred by it.
In countries with complex infrastructure, enormous capacity for expenditure, extensive political allyships and democratic institutions, the relative protection from this virus has been the norm.
As a result, it is easy to fall into a camp of ignorance, where only our own safety matters.
The priority becomes getting boosters for those countries who are capable of receiving and administering them, not giving people in other nations the access to even a first dose.
In a world where the Western struggle is the primary image the media and politics reflects back at us, we have collectively lost sight of the importance of compassion and unity when faced with a crisis that for more than two years has threatened to tear us apart.
Instead of turning a blind eye and pretending that this pandemic is over – or even that it is not real – it is imperative that we amplify the voices of those still vulnerable to this health crisis.
Through awareness, perhaps we could change the world for the better so that access to health and safety is not determined by geographic location.
Nargis Babar is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.