2021, a boon for humankind?

by Jad Yateem

The ongoing international sanitary situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger, poverty, climate change and the number of conflicts around the world, could crush our dreams and hopes for a better year.

The coronavirus pandemic

            COVID-19 cases are increasing again, economies are abiding to decline, affecting middle-and low-income countries, and the world was hit with another wave of lockdowns and shutdowns. Worldwide, 84 million people were affected by the coronavirus, with 1.83 million deaths, and almost 45 million people recovered.

            COVID-19 vaccine represents the people`s hope to return to their normal life and to help the economies around the world.

            Also, from the day it started, the coronavirus drove an additional 130 million humans ”to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020”. 

Hunger

            At this moment, 20 countries might face high peaks in food insecurity in the next six months, requiring immediate attention.

            Of those, Burkina Faso, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen have areas where, following years of conflict, a critical hunger situation was reached. Without help from other countries, the situation will worsen in the coming months, leading to a famine in 2021.

            The other countries requiring crucial help are: Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Mali, Haiti, Mozambique, Somali, Niger, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

            By the end of 2020, almost 270 million people are facing crisis levels of hunger, and, according to David Beasley, an UN official, the world is going to face a famine of biblical proportions in 2021.    

Climate change

            2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

            90% of the heat caused by the climate change is stored in the oceans, which are continuing to warm, and at an accelerating rate, contributing to sea-level rise. The warming affected many parts of the world, with a lot more coming up next. In Greenland, the ice sheet lost around 152 billion tons of ice in August 2020. The North Atlantic hurricane season broke the record, with 30 storms hitting the land, causing great casualties.

Adding the wildfires in Siberia, Australia, along the US West Coast and South America, and the floods in Africa and Southeast Asia, all speak of the acute impacts of climate change in 2020.

The year 2021 will be defined by the strategy to recover from Covid-19, while the centuries ahead will be determined by how environmentally friendly that strategy will actually be.

Conflicts

            The coronavirus pandemic and the following economic crisis had a direct impact on the tensions, which simmered, and are threatening to emerge further in 2021. At this moment, humanitarian need is at its peak, aid groups and governments face budget deficiency, and climate change forces people to fight over resources or to flee.

            In 2021, humankind will be dealing with the legacies from 2020: a disastrous situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic evolution, an economic crisis unrivaled since World War II, and the ongoing conflicts all around the world.

            In this regard, the conflicts to watch in 2021 are: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sahel, Yemen, Venezuela, Libya, Somalia, the US-Iran tensions, Russia-Turkey relations, and climate change.

            Also, the protests against the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, could get less peaceful if the situation does not get better. In 2020, we witnessed a great number of mass protests around the world, caused by familiar themes like democratic freedoms, women’s rights and racial justice, but the most significant ones were against the government lockdowns and mask mandates due to Covid-19 pandemic.

While 2020 may be a year to forget, 2021 will likely keep reminding us of it.

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