Tale of two pandemics: Follow the science and do not forget one at the cost of the other

Shobha Shukla - CNS

Covid-19 has posed innumerable health, economic, and social challenges for all, including people living with HIV. It has exposed the fragility of health systems around the globe and has diverted political attention and funding from other infectious diseases like TB and HIV. The opening session of the 11th International IAS Conference on HIV Science (#IAS2021) held virtually from Berlin, saw a lively panel discussing the tale of the two most horrendous recent pandemics in the history of our civilisation: Covid-19 and HIV/AIDS.

Are we hungry for change for genuinely transforming food systems?

Shobha Shukla - CNS

While the governments chant the mantra of "leaving no one behind", it is ironic that they are abetting corporate grabbing of land and resources, which is pushing farmers out of agriculture. Corporations are exercising more and more control over food and agriculture and influencing public policies. The forthcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021, tentatively to be held in September 2021 and convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, purports to transform the way the world produces and consumes food, and leverage these actions to deliver progress on all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Governments must adopt a strong political declaration that the global crisis mandates

Shobha Shukla - CNS

Because if they do not, then we are doomed to fail to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 (for which only 113 months are left). The clock is ticking but governments from around the world, who are convening at the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) seem to be regurgitating old timid commitments and shying away from taking bold decisions. The Covid-19 pandemic and cascading humanitarian crises warrant governments to adopt a strong enough Ministerial Declaration at HLPF 2021 which is critical for progressing towards a resilient recovery post-pandemic as well as for SDGs. The Ministerial Declaration is a major outcome of the HLPF, but sadly our governments failed to adopt one last year. The price of inaction for not taking genuinely transformative actions globally will not only be regressive, but will also worsen the already existing inequalities and injustices for the majority of the people.

Are some more equal than others?

In current times when India, like many other countries, is reeling under a severe economic crisis as well as backbreaking humanitarian crises, we also see ugly lavish (and avoidable) government expenditures, throwing austerity to the winds and jeopardising public interest. While equality is among the key values of the Indian Constitution, there are several instances that remind us of George Orwell’s famous quote: “All are equal, but some are more equal than others”, even during the pandemic. 

[video] Nothing without us: Civil society solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic

Who should be held responsible for deaths due to negligence?

When India was reeling under the severest impact of the Covid pandemic, and the peak of around 450,000 new cases was reported in 24 hours around mid April 2021, then an interesting chronology of events were taking place regarding the Covid vaccination programme (along with Kumbh in Uttarakhand and elections in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh). 

Were people the missing link in Covid response?

Highest level of political leadership in Covid response is indeed unprecedented if we look at other health responses such as those for HIV, non-communicable diseases, TB or other communicable diseases that affect our lives. But were people having any voice in helping shape the response to the corona virus pandemic? To what extent did governments adapt important game-changing learnings over the past decades from several other health and development struggles? 

Putting people first is a critical cog in the wheel for responsive health systems

 

Shobha Shukla - CNS

 
Imagine a world where no one was suffering from any of the preventable diseases, be it non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or infectious diseases, or had to die untimely due to diseases that were primarily avoidable! Also imagine a tobacco free world - imagine a world where healthy balanced nutrition for all was a reality - where health for all was not just a chant but a reality for everyone where no one was truly left behind.

#WorldLocalizationDay: Peasants rise up to demand genuine food-system reforms

Food nourishes life. Our farmers produce more than enough food to feed all the people on the planet but due to socially unjust and ecologically unsustainable food systems, many people are forced to go hungry. Moreover farmers who help nurture life, continue to struggle for their livelihoods and human rights. In lead up to 2021 World Localization Day, farmers from all continents worldwide are uniting to demand genuine reforms in our food system that also localize supply-chains and help recover people’s connections to nature and community.

When the health system became the cause of death

Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhushan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs. 1.5 lakhs for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week. Madhurima Kundu, a Ph.D. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University was admitted for four days at Sultanpuri Government Isolation Centre for Covid patients in Delhi and has described the pathetic conditions related to availability and behavior of doctors, medical and para-medical staff, sanitation, food, medicines, linen and monitoring of oxygen in a petition filed in High Court. The ill patients had to go down to the reception to ask for every basic thing and stand in queues in scorching sun to get medicines.