The worst health disaster of this century in the form of COVID 19 Pandemic has claimed over 60.6 lacs lives worldwide and 5.16 lacs lives in India, only next to USA and Brazil. The sheer number of lives lost as per available statistics will belittle the overall havoc that the vast majority of humanity have gone through in terms of healthcare, education, livelihood and portrays a horrid story, unprecedented and never seen before as such devastating proportion to our generation.
As we enter the third year of the pandemic which had endless lives and families destroyed by the virus itself, it is worth mentioning that the effects have spared none cutting across religion, cast, creed, colour, language and borders alike. Adding to the woes, while millions more are grappling through the long-term health crisis of COVID, lack of care in non-covid medical conditions like pregnancy care, immunisation, care of non-communicable diseases, on the other hand millions of school and college goers have had their education interrupted, many had to abruptly end their education mostly from the marginalized sections. Several of them have been forced to child labour, early marriage and parenthood. The poor have become poorer, the middle class have faced joblessness, layoffs, pay cuts and many small businesses have closed as a consequence of the pandemic induced economic slowdown. While after a bumpy start, India have done fairly well as regards to vaccination, there remains a marked disparity in vaccine access globally.
As a healthcare worker and being on the frontline, many a times, as well as a health activist, these past two years have taught me as an individual and us, as an organisation (West Bengal Doctors Forum) many a thing which would not have been possible without this unforeseen calamity.
I look back to the Alma Ata declaration 44 years ago, when 134 nations signed their consent and obligation to provide accessible, affordable healthcare to all citizens and recognize Right to Health. And yet after almost 42 years, they were caught off guard when the pandemic did actually strike, and even after the first wave having wrecked havoc till the second wave causing mayhem. From the richest to the developing and poor nations, none were spared!
The horrific images of people craving for oxygen, hospital beds, lying and dying on roads, hundreds of pyres burning throughout the days and nights and corpses floating in the river, of mindless political showbiz, of religious practices flouting COVID containment regulations, we have witnessed it all. We have seen the hapless families of the COVID martyrs and people at large, at complete loss and devastated.
The Pandemic has sent out a message, loud and clear – Equality and equity! We are all the same, regardless of our religious, culture, customs – the Virus doesn’t choose. It connects us in a way and showed us that we need to stick together – we humans are fragile by ourselves, our strength lies in being part of a community – and that’s exactly why we, from WBDF from the beginning of the pandemic rejected the phrase “social distancing” and called upon all to observe “physical distancing, social bonding”.
Our take from the last two years of Pandemic can be summarized as an appeal the stake holders in the Government – Healthcare should be the universal right of every citizen and available, affordable and accessible; increase healthcare budget allocations; non-discriminatory and scientific preparedness to tackle emergencies from the primary to the tertiary levels; healthcare workers are our greatest resource – protect, motivate and prevent burnouts, PTSD of these most valuable asset; protect freedom of expression and access to timely and accurate information; design policies for the deprived sections as well as others; prioritize education and take special means to tackle the needs of the economically marginalized people who are still far from coping with the onslaught brought about by the pandemic. We look forward to an organised, scientific and humane effort and not short term measures.
There is an old saying ‘there is good in every evil’ and we know that life is a lesson, we learn and relearn every day. Sadly enough, the war mongers still continue to ravage human civilization, the hate mongers use caste, colour, religion and partisan politics without respite…but having stood together among the most trying waves of the pandemic, the natural calamities (Amphan and Yash), we from WBDF firmly believe that there is no rainbow without rain. When all this is over, earth will continue to spin and life will flow again. The question is whether by then we will have learned our lesson!
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one”
Dr. Koushik Chaki
Executive Member, WBDF