Pandemic fueling discrimination in Asia, warns Red Cross

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Pandemic fueling discrimination in Asia, warns Red Cross - We The World
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A survey conducted by The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in several Asian nations found an alarming number of people believe a particular group of people are responsible for the spread of the virus.

The survey was conducted by the Red Cross to understand the dynamics of the pandemic on people, and what they know about the virus, to deliver better community response.

4,993 people were surveyed by the Asia Pacific Risk Communication and Community Engagement Working Group from the nations – Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Pakistan to get an idea of the people’s sentiments.

Turned out, an alarming number of people blamed a particular group of people for spreading the virus, including anti-maskers, foreigners, ‘rule-breakers.’

There was also a great disdain on social media as a source of information on COVID-19, despite it being the largest.

“It is alarming that our findings show that almost half of people surveyed believe specific groups are at fault for the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Viviane Fluck, Community Engagement and Accountability Coordinator, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Asia Pacific.

Precisely, forty-nine percent of the respondents, making one in every two held a specific group responsible for spreading COVID-19, the survey found.

Sixty-nine percent, meaning more than two out of three Malaysian respondents thought the pandemic is attributed to anti-maskers and religious people for gathering.

Close to one-third of the respondents in Myanmar (32%) and Pakistan (30%) and over half of Indonesians (55%) hold rule-breakers and foreigners responsible for the spread of the novel disease.

Other insights from the survey include people’s perception of the dangers of the disease and faith in publicly enacted rules to prevent the spread like wearing masks and handwashing.

Four in five Malaysians or seventy-nine percent think COVID-19 is dangerous, while four in five or eighty percent in Indonesia think the disease is ‘very dangerous,’ the report says.

Eighty-seven percent of the respondents from the four countries, meaning close to nine out of ten believe mask-wearing and handwashing (91%) are the best ways to protect the self and family.

Most people had faith in television (62%) as the source of authentic information on the virus, followed by the next best-preferred source as the radio (44%), newspaper (40%).

But only one in five had faith in social media (22%) to get informed about the whereabouts of the pandemic, the survey found.

It also found sixteen percent, one in six people in the survey from some countries relied on traditional healers as a source of information.

“We are very concerned that vulnerable groups such as migrants and those who cannot afford protective equipment such as masks may be discriminated against due to stigma and fear rising from these views,” Dr. Fluck said.

“Many countries in Asia are experiencing triple crises of COVID-19, natural hazard-related disasters, and socio-economic upheavals. It’s critical that we step up engagement with communities to address harmful misinformation that hinders efforts to contain this pandemic.”

Speaking to Reuters news agency, she said more efforts should be given in combating rumors that are “linked to underlying power dynamics and structural issues of inequality”.

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