All the Devastating Epidemics That Coronavirus is Distracting Us From

Photograph Source: Stiller Beobachter – CC BY 2.0

Almost every day the BBC’s One-minute World News provides the latest death tally from coronavirus. The short news wrap-up typically covers about three news items only, meaning that for the BBC, the virus has been among the top three most important issues for the world, daily for the last two months.

All the other mainstream media outlets are likewise reporting on every single angle to this story they can, including regular updates of the global tally and a country-by-country breakdown.

The impact of such intense coverage of the virus is widespread fear, even though pedestrians are still 13 times more likely to be killed by a car than by this virus.

Further, media-based concern about irreversible climate change and the ubiquitous sexual abuse of women seems to have died down. Those issues have become less of an emergency, and the sense that governments and businesses need to rectify straight away, has diminished.

While 3,000 people have unfortunately died from coronavirus over the past two months (50 people per day), here are some stats on some comparatively atrocious epidemics that we should also be informed about every single hour, in lurid detail, until something changes:

87,000 women a year, or 238 a day, are murdered.

36,000 people a day are forced to flee their homes, with a total of 70.8 million people currently forcibly displaced.

24,600 people die every day from starvation, and 820 million people don’t have enough food to eat.

10,000 people die daily because they lack access to healthcare.

6,000 people die daily from work-related accidents or illnesses, for 2.3 million people per year. There are 340 million occupational accidents every year.

2,191 people die to suicide every day, for 800,000 per year.

1,643 people die every day due to second-hand smoking.

740 pedestrians are killed on roads every day.

– Around 998 million women have experienced sexual violence (that is around 35% of women).

– At any given time, around 40.3 million people are working in some kind of forced labor or marriage.

– An area of forest the size of the UK is being destroyed every year.

– There are 150 million people without somewhere to live and 1.6 billion people living in inadequate housing.

– More than 50% of indigenous adults suffer from Type 2 diabetes.

– An estimated 560,000 people were killed in Syria by December 2018.

– Almost half of humanity is living on less than US$5.50 per day.

Then there are the epidemics that aren’t even documented or counted. We know that three in 10 young trans people in the US tried take their lives in the space of a year, and that 40% of bisexual people have considered or attempted suicide there, but we don’t have global figures. And no one is measuring the death of imagination of people who work three jobs, or the global impact of US invasions and its almost 800 military bases, or the mind-numbing impact of the US$532 billion advertising industry. And we do not know how many people globally are subject to racist attacks, nor is there some kind of daily measurement of the pandemic of bland apathy to the world’s toxic social and economic structures. There is no one categorizing the overproduction of useless shit, though we do know that there are around 50 million tons of e-waste produced each year. There is no daily news on the virulent erasure of histories, voices, people’s organization, cultures, and languages. The mainstream media are not concerned in the same way by the epidemic of corrupt politicians bought off by big business or by the public money lost to corporate tax avoidance (estimated at $500 billion per year).

And the mainstream media will not talk much about these things. That isn’t just because rich people can’t catch poverty, it’s because the mainstream media is capitalist and it does not recognize systemic issues, and certainly not the causes and solutions to them. The media pretends not to, but it does have an agenda, and that agenda is in fact counter to the one that us serious journalists commit to – to revealing the bruises of the world and the screaming injustices and holding those in power accountable.

Panic and fomenting fear are well-tried methods of control, distraction, and of shifting popular support towards the rightwing. On the other hand, raising awareness of the sickening global inequality and the daily pain so many are subject to develops critical thought, and would be empowering and disrupting, and so the mainstream media does not do that.

Tamara Pearson is a long-time journalist based in Latin America, and author of The Butterfly Prison. Her writings can be found at her blog.

Tamara Pearson is a long time journalist based in Latin America, and author of The Butterfly Prison. Her writings can be found at her blog.