Covid-19: Encouraging Signs Behind the Headlines in India

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The Covid-19 Global Pandemic struck a world in which only 50% of the inhabitants have access to essential health services. No matter what processes were put in place to try and mitigate the effects of the virus, no models were ever likely to be deemed a success, though it has become increasingly clear that some international efforts were more prudent than others. Yet in many countries around the globe those efforts were necessarily underpinned by an unsung army of community groups and NGOs, putting their own health at risk to ensure the most vulnerable were not left even farther behind.

CDV's Matilda Hazael looks at some of the differences in the way countries have handled the Covid Pandemic

As of writing, India has over 10 million Covid cases, a number second only to the United States. But behind this headline figure there is a story that numbers alone cannot tell, though they do help us to paint a picture.

India has roughly 4 times the population of the US which, in itself, helps to explain the huge number of cases it has suffered comparatively, and yet that is still circa 7 million less than America. This disparity is even more stark when you look at the more relevant fatality record. India has suffered less than half of the deaths of the United States leading to a mortality rate far below that of the US and most of the major European nations. When judged on deaths per 100,000 head of population, India's mortality rate is 10.5 deaths, whereas the US is just over 91. The UK has an even more troubling rate of 96.5.

Whilst it is still too early to judge and compare international efforts to combat the virus, Western nations will surely be taking a long look at other parts of the world, often termed "developing" or "emerging" nations, and consider what was the difference?

Dr Sahid Jameel, Director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University in India, believes that such continual levels of low fatality can be attributed to the continent's predominately younger population. As global records show, coronavirus is of a greater risk to older generations. Younger people are much better at fighting off infection and thus keep mortality figures low. India's government on the other hand points to "timely and effective clinical management of the patients in critical care" for such low statistics. Although every global government has been at pains to over-emphasise the success of their own interventions.

Indeed, it is difficult to accept such statements at face value, with predicted underreporting in India seeing numbers as much as 50% lower in some states. Reporting methodology has also being questioned, as it has been in almost every country, with processes encouraging recorded deaths be attributed to underlying health conditions and diseases of co-morbidity, as opposed to Covid-19 itself. India is certainly not alone in this respect, with global estimates suggesting between 30% to 50% of initial Covid-19 deaths being undercounted.

Although much of India's response and success in tackling this virus is unclear on a national scale, the unsung heroes of this pandemic are community-led action groups and rural NGOs, who together have worked tirelessly to minimise the impact of the virus on their local communities. Dharavi, viewed as one of Asia's largest informal settlements, has demonstrated continual falling figures of active cases, a surprise to many given such a large population density. This can be partly attributed to its proactive community-led approach of vigorous testing as soon as symptoms appear, specialised quarantine zones, and regular practices of sanitation. Furthermore, the provision of free food rations to those families in isolation, means that people who are sick do not have to continue to work. Subsequently all this hard work has resulted in the chief of WHO (The World Health Organisation) praising Dharavi in particular for being able to control the virus, even in the most extreme scenarios.

A number of CDV Global's partner NGOs are at the forefront of tackling Covid-19 head on. The Nisarga Foundation who aim to boost tribal empowerment via preservation of both their health and culture have highlighted that, due to the coronavirus, many tribal communities are being further marginalised from society because of delays in everyday medicines and access to healthcare, combined with a loss livelihood due to significantly reduced employment opportunities. In order to help such vulnerable families, Nisarga has provided Dry Ration Kits to thousands of families across the communities they support. These contain essential food items for maintaining a balanced diet and strong immune system along with necessary non-food elements such as soap, sanitary pads and masks to help maintain hygiene.

Alongside the dry ration kits, Nisarga has addressed three areas of importance for the future sustainability of the rural communities. These focus on spreading awareness of the virus through the promotion of adequate safety measures; working to provide future job opportunities to rural communities; and finally boosting nutritional security to prevent an over dependence on outside resources. NGOs such as Nisarga demonstrate the power of community based action as one of the strongest ways to fight the ongoing pandemic.

As countries across the globe begin to examine their own response to this crisis on a national scale, we will likely begin to see other stories emerge showing the power of action at a local level, if not preventing and reversing the spread of the virus, then certainly mitigating the effects of it, economically and emotionally, offering support at times when centralised action was absent.

CDV Global partners with NGOs who are on the frontline of the virus. With the aid of CDV Global, individuals and companies are able to remotely create and deliver a programme that ultimately helps develop a proactive response to protecting the world's most vulnerable during a time of international crisis. If you or your company are interested in creating a long term relationship with organisations who are supporting marginalised communities through the pandemic and beyond to a sustainable future, please get in touch. 

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Friday, 05 March 2021

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