The mismanagement of Covid in Brazil and India is triggering a hunger crisis

Jair Bolsonaro and Narendra Modi

Alan Santos/PR, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

As Indians continue to scramble for survival through a deadly second COVID-19 wave and deal with an inadequate health care system that has failed them at every step, for a majority of the country living in rural areas and in slums in urban centers, food insecurity is proving to be a bigger struggle than protecting themselves against the deadly virus.

In one of Asia's largest slums, Dharavi, Mumbai, putting food on the table is proving to be a pressing challenge for the population of about 1,000,000 living in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. "Hunger is a major problem," says Nawneet Ranjan, founder of the nonprofit Dharavi Diary (Gyanodaya Foundation), who has been working in Dharavi for the last several years. "In the last six or seven years that I have worked here, I have never seen anything like this," he says, referring to the helplessness being felt by the marginalized sections of India's societies who have been facing increasing food insecurity, especially during the second wave. "Food is a bigger priority than sickness," he explains. He has recently started a crowdfunding effort to provide the residents of Dharavi with food supplies, especially the most vulnerable sections like single mothers, the elderly and the transgender population.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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