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“There is no glory in prevention.” German Virologist Christian Dorsten

“We may be in the same storm, but we are in different boats”. Damian Barr

“Hunger is the world’s greatest solvable problem.” Tacos for Life

At the beginning of a new year, it is always interesting for me to look back, and to remind myself of the worst things that happened the previous year. It is also intriguing to find out what others regard as the worst things that happened during the year before. Our past year, 2020 is no exception. 

It goes without saying that most would place the pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 virus as the worst thing that happened in 2020. In this edition of “More than Meet the Eye,” I would like to place it alongside other bad occurrences in 2020, to help us gain a clear perspective.

We will begin by examining the death rates related to certain events, using that as our common denominator, and then move outward. Some may place a higher emphasis on economic or social cost. These too are valid. 

We will focus today on the relative cost of human life due to events that happened in 2020, causing us to ask the question, “Have death rates given us the best metric for evaluating the tragic-ness of human misery and suffering? We might be surprised to see that there is more than meets the eye surrounding this question. Next week I will discuss the emerging new threats that need to be paid attention to in 2021.

The review.

The Coronavirus death toll and cost:

It’s hard to know exactly how deadly COVID-19 is, due to the lack of accurate data. Case-fatality ratios have been crudely calculated as anything from less than 0.1% to over 25% between countries, according to the WHO. Let’s put a number on it based on the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracking system. At the end of 2020, 1.85 million souls perished due to the Coronavirus. Based on this mortality accounting system, (the 1.85 million figure) if we were to follow this logic to its conclusion, with the massive exposure it has been given, it probably would be near the top of the most mortal things that occurred in 2020. 

I must admit that most 2020 mortality data has not yet been reported. Experts are currently evaluating the data, and arriving at conclusions. These numbers will be published, based on past tempos, at some point in 2022. The best data we have is based on relative mortality rates over the last few years. I will rely on mortality data from 2019 as our starting point, and will simply show the values as represented by data from known institutions such as, the United States center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, and Johns Hopkins University, who have established themselves as a major follower of disease driven mortalities. To be as transparent as possible, I will represent mortalities of not only diseases but also of causations such as events and practices by human-beings. 

What were the leading causes of death in 2019?

1. Deaths due to starvation: 9,125,000

2. 8.9 million died globally from heart disease.

3. Tobacco use caused more than 7 million deaths in 2020.

4.  3,575,000 people died from water-related diseases.

5. In 2012, 3.3 million deaths, or 5.9 percent of all global deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption.

6. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people dying as a result of being overweight or obese.

7. Coronavirus Pandemic: 1.85 million

8. Heart disease: 655,381

9. Cancer: 599,274

10. Wars in 2020: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Libya, Yemen, Persian Gulf, Kashmir, Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh total deaths… roughly 80,000 deaths

There were many other tragic events that transpired in 2020. This shortlist is only representative and is registered, recognizing that many good people died in 2020. I am in no way intending to denigrate the value of each human life that was lost this past year.

The why.

Some will read this edition of “More than Meets the Eye” and suggest that I am minimizing the impact of the COVID-19 deaths recorded across the globe in 2020. I run the risk of some assuming that I am underestimating the human cost related to the virus. This is not my intent. My desire is that we take a much more sober look at the things that are actually killing us, as a human race. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is certainly one of them, but it is only one of them. When put into perspective, alongside global maladies such as starvation and disease-laden water problems, it makes me wonder why more is not being done to solve these imminently solvable problems, which get little to no playtime as destroyers of mankind. Could it be that starvation has become a “new normal,” and that it is not interesting to read or hear about anymore? How long will it be before COVID-19 becomes such a new normal that it is no longer considered to be a threat to mankind?

When a Google search for, “How many people are dying of COVID-19?” is done, the results pop up, showing that about 2,580,000,000 searches have been made on the subject. When I replace the phrase, “COVID-19” with the word, “starvation,” the number of searches made drops to below 7,340,000. That is close to a 1.8 billion difference in the number of searches made. When the phrase, “COVID-19” is replaced with the word, “dehydration,” the result is 20,500,000. Still an extremely significant difference.

Once again, I am not saying that we need to decrease our exposure to understanding the devastating impact of the SARS-CoV-2, however, the world needs to wake up to the tragedies which loom large all around us and which are killing millions of people every year. There is an increasing connection between the pandemic and the increase of global starvation. 

As many as 12,000 people could die per day by the end of the year, as a result of hunger, linked to COVID-19, potentially more than could die from having the disease. The WFP estimates that the number of people in crisis-level hunger − defined as IPC level 3 or above – will increase by approximately 138 million this year as a result of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. The estimated daily mortality rate for IPC level 3 and above is 0.5−1 per 10,000 people, equating to 6,050−12,100 deaths per day due to hunger as a result of the pandemic before the end of 2020.

I know I have quoted Joseph Stalin before, but this quote seems very prescient at the beginning of 2021. “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” -Joseph Stalin. Many people seem to be treating these other forms of devastating realities as statistics rather than as people. It seems appropriate to open up our minds and allow the possibility that these very solvable problems could be added to our list of concerns, and that we as a people, as a nation, as a world, should do something to prevent even one more person from dying of starvation, dehydration, heart disease, and cancer. It is recognized that much of the death caused by the other human maladies could be prevented by human volition. These are needs that still need to be met. I would suggest that they need to be addressed at a different level.

The action.

There are hundreds of global starvation mitigation organizations. Pick one. Give money. Take food to their food pantries. Just do something. 

Organizations such as, Global Hunger TaskForce exist to provide direct relief to starving people. If each person did even a little something, the entire problem could be fixed. It costs less than 25 cents a day to keep a human being from starving to death. Very quickly the need for relief has to be transitioned to development, where people are encouraged, equipped, and empowered to begin producing food on their own, positioning them to become providers of relief and no longer consumers of it.

We all need to stay informed, remain up to date with the best information about current events, and be discerning about the sources we consume. It is important that we find several sources of information that we trust. We must keep in mind that so many information sources today are filled with agendas and presuppositions.

I consume a lot of information on a weekly basis. I consistently find myself discarding sources because they are simply too biased to be reliable.

Remain teachable. It is easy to just keep doing what you have always done, by reading what you have always read and listening to what you have always listened to. I am reminded of the urban definition of insanity— to do what you have always done while expecting different results. Look for new and alternative sources of information. Read things that, perhaps in the past you believed were suspect. Read sources that you know are at odds with your world view. Allow yourself to be stretched. Have confidence in your values, while allowing your understanding of situations to be stretched. All of us could stand to learn a new thing or two.

Exercise humility. I have gotten to a point in life where I no longer believe that I need to be the “knowledge police.” When asked to give a defense for what you believe, share it. Respect others for what they believe. It is the right thing to do.

The follow-up.

Iranian parliament orders increase in uranium enrichment…https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Iranian-parliament-orders-increase-in-uranium-enri

8 Shocking Things You Didn’t Know Are Happening In The World Right Now… https://www.vix.com/en/world/528723/8-shocking-things-you-didnt-know-are-happening-world-right-now

The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests, please feel free to write to me at: david@morethanmeets.co

Resources.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/covid-19-deaths-global-killers-comparison/

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/covid-19-is-now-the-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-the-u-s1/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/losing-25000-hunger-every-day

https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/freshwater/deaths-from-dirty-water/story

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html

https://ourworldindata.org/water-access

https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/26/10-conflicts-to-watch-2020/

https://www.un.org/pga/70/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2016/01/Conflict-and-violence-in-the-21st-century-Current-trends-as-observed-in-empirical-research-and-statistics-Mr.-Alexandre-Marc-Chief-Specialist-Fragility-Conflict-and-Violence-World-Bank-Group.pdf

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/12000-people-day-could-die-covid-19-linked-hunger-end-year-potentially-more-disease

© 2019 • More Than Meets