War Against Novel Coronavirus: Weapons to Win this Battle

TerraGreen|May 2020

War Against Novel Coronavirus: Weapons to Win this Battle
In this article, Meena Sehgal says that COVID-19 has opened new discussions on funds for the health sector, the equity in availability of resources across urban and rural India and their adequacy within the communities. She wonders whether the new world order of protective and preventive action would last beyond the virulence of COVID-19 and feels that pivotal change, required, would be a marked increase in public expenditure on health as percentage of GDP.
Meena Sehgal
The number of novel coronavirus cases and deaths around the globe continue to shock us. The national preparedness or rather the lack of it haunts us. It is a concern, because we have a population of 1.3 billion in India, it is a bigger concern because nearly 900 million Indians live in 2 rooms or less, it is a still bigger concern because 15 lakh huddle up in the metro rail every day in a metropolitan city like Delhi.

Apparently healthy people could be carriers of the disease and this may prove lethal to their loved ones. The virus has no treatment, and the major weapons are quarantine and social distancing. The rapidly emerging knowledge from across the globe, informs us that being older, already suffering from a disease, puts a person at higher risk for the worst symptoms.

The crisis from COVID-19 brings to fore an interesting and unprecedented community-level action. While the boon of digital connectivity has opened new vistas of information, and has filled the gap of critical information, however it has fuelled fear. Would the new world order of protective and preventive action last beyond the virulence of coronavirus 19? COVID-19 has opened new discussions on funds for the health sector, the equity in availability of resources across urban and rural India and their adequacy within these communities. It lays bare the need for feedback loops which inform and determine on an on-going basis adequacy of the health care resources (for instance, India has a doctor: patient ratio of close to 1:10,000, as opposed to 1:1000 recommended by the WHO). This information is needed to strengthen a bottom up approach so that affordable health facilities are really ‘available’.

The Legacy

In our favour, is the fact that we are a younger population (median age of 28 versus 45 in Italy, and 38 in USA), fairly compliant, and deeply sensitive people. What is against us, in India, amongst the children 36 per cent are underweight; and 58 per cent anaemic; amongst the adult women 22 per cent have low body mass index (BMI) and 53 per cent anaemic.

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May 2020