Covid-19 relief: the challenges ahead

…comprehensive societal response needed
Covid-19 relief: the challenges ahead
File Pic: Habib Naqash/GK

Covid-19 has assumed the dimension of a global challenge. The response however varies from country to country, from place to place, depending on variety of factors. There might be a common denominator vis-à-vis the challenges posed by the global spread of covid-19, ground facts nevertheless vary. Ground facts are shaped partly by economic dimension, as well as by the equanimity of societal responses. Economic shortfall could be partly if not wholly mitigated by coherent response. The southern hemisphere in economic terms faces economic challenges, much in excess of advanced societies of northern hemisphere. It may be added though that the plight of northern economies in USA, UK, European Union, as well as in Japan is face to face with massive reshaping of economic priorities. Growing unemployment with jammed wheels of industry and resultant lay-offs is adding to dole queues. Bail-out measures are at work, taxing state treasuries. USA, otherwise the leading global economy has had to work-out a bail out package of 2.2 trillion dollars. Similar measures are being worked out in UK and European economies. Before touching the broader contours of the challenge in hand, a word on the medical community with a lead role in the situation would be in order. 
The broader societal challenge carries a frontline, shaped by the medical community of doctors, nurses and various paramedical streams. The medical community remains conscious of challenging situation, even while shortages in medical wear to provide care to covid-19 patients is becoming increasingly apparent. The facts stands that health care doesn't have sufficient lay-out to take covid-19 head-on. It may be attributed to scant attention paid to social welfare sector in budgetary allocations in yester-years. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that health care of advanced societies is bursting at seams, given the spread of Covid-19 affliction like a wild fire. Early and better care however could have been worked out by heeding what Prof. Parvaiz Koul of SKIMS forewarned. Well-versed in virology, Prof. Koul explicitly laid-down that ''It is not a question of if, but when''. He was obviously alluding to corona virus spread to our vale, while Wuhan in China was the primary target. Thorough professionals like Prof. Koul, Dr. Naveed Nazir Shah—the pulmonologist in Chest Diseases Hospital inspire hope. GMC associated hospitals headed by Principal/Dean GMC Srinagar-Prof. Samia Rashid are taking gainful steps, making most of scarce conditions. The least desired in current situation is taking a hostile attitude towards medical community. Some ugly scenes witnessed lately could put our societal response in poor light. The seniors in the community, at the pinnacle of profession are coming up with valuable inputs. Prof. Allaqaband, presently on a teaching assignment in United States is feeding the medical community with useful information vis-à-vis Covid-19 on social media. The information, widely disseminated is almost on a daily basis. Prof. MS Khuroo, credited with discovering Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) is preparing a comprehensive paper on covid-19. The medical community remains alive to the gruesome situation, we face. 
Getting to broader contours of societal response, they could be worked on the immediate measures in the short run and a fool-proof relief distribution in place as a permanent solution. The permanent solution is needed to strategize responses; given the vulnerabilities the valley faces on several counts. Immediate measure of prime importance—the social distancing is admirably met by the masses in the valley. The businesses have come to halt save the essentials to sustain life. People on the streets are few and far between, and use of masks by those with need to venture out is widespread. Social distancing measure, the prime motive of lockdown practiced globally with few exceptions has however an economic impact. While bail-out measures for growing dole queues resulting from unemployment are being worked out in advanced economies of northern hemisphere, widespread hunger in marginalized sections of the society is turning out to be the fate of southern economies. There is a growing debate on whether corona virus or hunger would affect the marginalized first and with greater intensity.  
To mitigate hunger remains the primary focus. Yet again, short-term measures need to in place, long-term as well, as there are no swift measures in place to pull people below poverty line (BPL) out of their predicament. Fair measure of holistic long-term societal response may take time to work-out. As a short-time measure, the ideal could be to collect donations for onward distribution. However, this has its demerits at the collection level, with legal issues involved as well. There is a stigma attached to such collections, questions are raised, with even motives questioned. Alternatively, one or more marginalized families could by adopted by a family with affordable means.  As such, mosque committees form a highly desirable element of every locality with an adequate feedback on the societal set-up in the locality. Apart from urban set-up, such committees exist in rural hinterland, as well. In urban areas, all daily wagers, small vendors, and others who otherwise sustain their families on day to day earnings should be included in the marginalized category. In rural areas, farmers with smaller holdings, meager resources or in debt could be helped out. We may now shift to look at long-term measures.  
While the official agencies in J&K might be working out bail out packages, the society at large cannot shirk its responsibility. Apart from official agencies, some religious and trade organizations, NGOs have fielded their workers to provide relief. However, dire need to coordinate such activity necessitates an umbrella set-up to streamline activity on ground, and work-out economic resources to bank on. Widespread mapping of urban areas and rural hinterland is the need of the hour to identify and provide relief to the needy. Fortunately, we have a wide pool of IT experts to make it practicable. Resource tapping in IT sector could provide the mean to the desired end. Area mapping, a global practice to categorize the societal segments is the grounding on which relief measures work on the long term basis. Religious and trade organizations, NGO's may streamline their activities in a scientific manner by looping in the IT sector to provide the blueprint for coordinated relief measures to provide succor to the marginalized segments of the society. Besides efforts to mitigate hunger, NGOs, social and religious organizations should make efforts to provide medicine to needy, plus masks and sanitizers. Efforts could also be initiated to augment the protective wear of the front-line workers—the medical community. Shortfalls could severely impact their ability to combat Covid-19 challenge. In fact, the JK Medical Supplies Corporation limited has issued tenders for such items on 31st of March and 1st April which speaks volumes about their seriousness to challenges posed by Covid-19.  Coordinated societal measures would go a long way to mitigate suffering resulting from a grave health challenge, as well as to address the vulnerabilities of the valley tucked in challenging natural set-up in northern Himalayas.
 Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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