This letter was submitted to TODAY Online in February 2020, but they declined to publish it.

As this is written on 18 February, the global death toll from Covid-19 is rising towards 2000, while the number of people who have recovered from the disease exceeds 12,000.

Channel News Asia: China coronavirus death toll -18 Feb 2020

Yes, Covid-19 and the problems that arise in its wake, such as possible economic difficulties, are scary. Thus, we need to follow the government’s advice on how to contain the outbreak.

At the same time, we should spare a thought for those in less well-provided countries for whom life-threatening disease represents a daily reality, not just a health issue on the order of Covid-19, which intrudes on our lives now and then.

An example of a health issue that is ever-present for far too many people is hunger. According to the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation, millions of people, including 6 million children under the age of five, die each year as a result of hunger.

Food and Agriculture Organization: Undernourishment around the world

Equally important as food is clean water, yet the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that 1/3 of the world’s population, approximately 2.5 billion of our fellow humans, lack reliable access to clean water.

UNICEF WHO: 1-in-3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water

Another life-preserving privilege that we in Singapore are fortunate enough to take for granted is sanitation. Sadly, according to the WHO, 2 billion people still do not have access to such basic sanitation facilities as toilets or even latrines.

WHO: Sanitation fact sheets

Ending hunger and providing clean water and sanitation do not require development of high-tech solutions, such as the vaccines for Covid-19, that scientists are racing to develop. What is required is for more of us to develop and act on feelings of empathy for the world’s less fortunate.