The new poor

The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus has brought about a paradigm shift, whereby the new poor are discovered: the family member or next door neighbor who has lost their job, has passed on the disease and is struggling to bring home a plate of food.  

February 1, 2021-Reading time: 2 minutes

They are called the "new poor" because of the Covid crisis. But why new? What is new about them? 

In fact, the poor are ancient, as old as the world is alive, they have always been there. They were in the most remote places in the world. They were sent help in case of floods, catastrophes and wars. We mobilized with impetus donations in the face of certain emergencies.

Then they began to move in unprecedented numbers, to migrate from those corners of the planet to appear at the crossroads of our highways, to invade the news, presented by some media as dangerous "invaders" threatening our welfare. And while the wealthy countries were struggling to resolve the reception or rejection of these uncontrollable flows, the pandemic arrived that has changed all paradigms.

One of them is that the poor have become "new", that is, they have taken on features that are familiar to us, they may even be our neighbors who, having lost their jobs (precarious? unstable? already fragile?), find themselves in difficulty to guarantee even a plate of food at home for their children.

These new poor line up at the doors of aid centers to receive a bag of food, or sign up on the lists of municipalities and parishes to receive a food package at home. 

It would be interesting if everyone had at least once the experience of taking a package of food to a "poor person". In the real bodily sense. The sequence is as follows: pick up the loaded and sealed box from the floor, feel its weight in your arms, load it into the car, ring the doorbell of the "poor", see the face of the person who opens, say hello, approach the first available table and drop the package. You don't know who is more embarrassed or shy or uncomfortable, the giver or the receiver. It may just be an exchange of pleasantries, but still, it's a meeting. And you can't help but make your way through.

It is repeated that the pandemic calls for a paradigm shift. The NGOs that worked for decades in these countries are now working in European regions that are among the richest, with projects identical to those carried out in Burundi or the Congo: they follow the same procedures, help the beneficiaries with the same needs: to eat, to be accompanied from the psychological and social point of view, to be treated, to find a job. If we were to go one step further in becoming aware of this new closeness within a new form of globalization, we would already be at the beginning of an April morning. A new era.

The authorMaria Laura Conte

Degree in Classical Literature and PhD in Sociology of Communication. Communications Director of the AVSI Foundation, based in Milan, dedicated to development cooperation and humanitarian aid worldwide. She has received several awards for her journalistic activity.

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