A Pandemic Polarity

by Anjali Yedavalli

The impact of COVID-19 on daily life varies depending on where you live…

It was early July of 2021. I was chatting with an old friend near the tennis courts of my high school. The two of us were with our families watching a tennis tournament while catching up on old memories and enjoying one of the first large social gatherings we had been to since the pandemic began. Something about the scene—the moms and dads sitting in lawn chairs watching their kids compete, or friends piling on the bleachers cheering on their teammates—made us both feel that melancholy touch of “normalcy” again. With most people in the area having received both doses of the vaccine, it finally felt safe to attend such a sporting event.

“It’s so nice to feel like things are returning to normal,” I told him. 

“Yeah, but you know, I kind of feel like we’re living in one of those dystopian novels.”

Seeing that I was confused, he said, “I just feel like the United States is like the Capitol from The Hunger Games. Like, we’re the privileged few that get to live out life like normal while the rest of the world is still very much fighting the pandemic. This…,” he paused, gesturing towards the clumps of families cheering their loved ones on, “…could never happen anywhere else.”

I immediately saw the event through a new—albeit grimmer—lens. The sight of people without face masks, enjoying themselves, living free from the constraints of the pandemic, suddenly felt disturbing and unfair. “You’re so right,” I whispered.

According to vaccination data provided by The New York Times, leading the pack in COVID-19 vaccination rates are countries like the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. The United States comes in near the middle with about 56% of the population being fully vaccinated and 65% having received at least one dose. In contrast, countries such as India, Pakistan, and Nepal have a fully vaccinated population of less than 30%. Several countries within the African subcontinent including Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya have a fully vaccinated population of less than 5%. This is especially concerning considering the surge in COVID-19 cases in these areas during the late summer (Holder). 

At first, the statistics surrounding developing nations don’t look so daunting. A comprehensive study released by the United Nations offers several possible explanations for this, including lower quality of data collection, decreased testing ability, and the fact that many developing nations took effective safety precautions. Cambodia, for example, shut down schools and restricted travel almost immediately. However, all countries are not created equal in the eyes of the pandemic. Developing nations suffer a greater degree of economic and health-related disparities and inequalities. The study goes on to explain how the pandemic has shut down opportunities for employment for low-skilled labor. This decreases prospects for the less educated in these countries. Additionally, the fragile health care systems of developing areas are experiencing further strains. In West Africa, high incidence areas of COVID-19 experienced a decrease in the use of health services by 27.6% during the latest Ebola outbreak. Worries now arise related to the threat of reversing years of progress in attempting to reduce child and maternal mortality rates in these nations (14).

There is an inherent privilege in developed countries’ access to resources. A privilege that bolsters our ability to recover from disaster. As normal life proceeds for us, perhaps it is best to stay aware, and grateful, for the privileges we may overlook. We should remain cognizant of our ability to not only help each other, but those in less fortunate situations around the globe. All it takes is a little bit of reframing, and we could all be written off as the complacent antagonists in a tragic dystopian story. And who are we to disagree with that?

Find ways to combat the pandemic’s impact on children around the world at unicef.org/take-action

About Anjali Yedavalli

Anjali Yedavalli is a senior at Dunlap High School. Aside from taking academically rigorous classes, Anjali is involved in Speech Team (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Student Council, UNICEF Club, the school plays, Jazz Choir, and is the Madrigal Queen of Dunlap’s Madrigal choir. Anjali’s main goal in the community is spreading passion for both academics and creativity. She has organized and led multiple public speaking workshops for middle school students and volunteered her time at North South Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding underprivileged children in India. In addition, she has joined and contributed to the Dunlap Young Musicians, a student-created music group that performs at senior homes on the holidays. She is also active in her Sunday School (Chinmaya Mission) and has helped write promotional songs and plays to help fundraise for the school. Last but not least, Anjali is a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer of Mythili Dance Academy and has contributed to shows that have raised over $500k for a variety of charities.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Ary Westfall is a junior Interactive Media major and Theatre Arts minor attending Bradley University. She is the social media manager for DAT, creates webcomics in her free time, and enjoys all forms of sequential art. Ary hopes to break into the comic world or find work in pre-production art for television.