2023 Feature, Small Newsroom finalist

Worlds Away: Covid Care in Three Global Outposts

About the Project

While the Covid-19 pandemic hit people hard across the world, those who live in rural communities were especially vulnerable — particularly because these communities are increasingly health care deserts.

This three-part series looks at the daily routine of health care workers in vastly different communities — a small township in central Zimbabwe, a remote community in northern Ecuador, and a village in upstate New York — to better understand such gaps in care.

Rural life in each of these countries is starkly different, and the challenges that the health care workers face, in some cases, also vary. In Hoja Blanca, Ecuador, for instance, it’s a three-day round trip just to send a Covid-19 test for analysis, requiring travel by motorcycle, bus, and ferry, and in Makusha Township, Zimbabwe, the health care worker gets around on a bike. Meanwhile, doctors in New York State have access to couriers and can hop in a car for house calls. There are also inequalities when it comes to vaccine availability, funding, and even access to basic medicines like ibuprofen.

But Covid-19 has also revealed common problems. There are far fewer doctors and nurses in these remote areas compared to their urban counterparts. Each rural community feels the pinch of badly broken health care systems on the national level. Covid misinformation and disinformation, as well as pandemic fatigue, reaches even the most remote areas. And as the pandemic lingers, all of the health care workers, no matter their country of origin, continue to toil to keep their neighbors safe.