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As Fight Against COVID-19 Intensifies, Healthcare Professionals Push For A Policy To Tackle Future Pandemics

As part of the “Doctors for One Health’ initiative, more than 100 doctors have written a petition to the Union Minister of Health AND Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan, urging him for enforcement of rules to prevent future recurrence of a global pandemic, like COVID-19

As Fight Against COVID-19 Intensifies, Healthcare Professionals Push For A Policy To Tackle Future Pandemics
  • One Health is an approach by WHO
  • SARS-CoV-2 is a significant example of the importance of the One Health
  • The petition demands enforcement of rules for wet markets and meat markets

New Delhi: With over 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, India’s healthcare system in the last six months has been under pressure. Seeking to address the growing challenges faced by the healthcare systems, over a hundred healthcare professionals have come together with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) for the “Doctors for One Health’ initiative.

As part of the initiative, the collective has written a petition to the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, urging him to enforce rules to prevent future pandemics, like COVID-19. In the petition, accessed by NDTV, the doctors appreciated the efforts of the Government in dealing with this pandemic, but also said,

Coronaviruses represent a continuous pandemic threat; humans have experienced two coronavirus-related health security crises since 2003. COVID-19 is a recent example of the complex threats of emerging infectious diseases.

Also Read: Coronavirus Explained: What Are Super-Spreaders And How Are They Responsible For COVID-19 Transmission?

WHO’s One Health is a collaborative and multi-sectoral approach with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes, recognising the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. Referencing to this approach, the collective said that SARS-CoV-2 is potentially another significant example of the importance of the One Health concept.

The threat from zoonotic coronaviruses or those jumping species are being highlighted by public health representatives across the world, given that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reportedly emerged from a wet market in China that sold live and wild animals for meat. From SARS in 2003 to Avian Flu, Swine Flu, MERS and COVID-19, the viruses are said to have jumped from animals to humans, a situation caused by proximity, bad farming practices and dwindling animal habitats, the petition reads.

In the petition, the doctors urged the Health Minister for the immediate banning of wet markets, and the enforcement of harsher rules and closures of slaughterhouses, that do not follow Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) guidelines and rules under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001.

Also Read: Coronavirus Outbreak In India, The Status So Far

Furthermore, the petition demands the government to enforce rules regarding wet markets and meat markets which are a ‘hotbed of diseases’, help end unsustainable intensive farming of livestock and strengthen the enforcement of the ban of wildlife consumption.

Emerging infections in humans and animals, along with other threats such as antimicrobial resistance, are difficult challenges to humanity, to a large extent driven by increasing demand for unsustainable animal agriculture. Considering this, the initiative seeks to address unethical animal-based consumption, and provide healthy and sustainable plant-based consumption alternatives, the petition reads.

Practices of the meat industry have come in for scrutiny during the ongoing pandemic. Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) says that this has gone beyond animal welfare and has become a health issue.

The One Health approach is not only a smarter and more holistic approach to adopt, but – with the unified voice of Indian healthcare professionals – is also one that presents a compelling and powerful catalyst for change. The goals of the collaboration facilitate a safe and sustainable world free of zoonotic viruses, as well a revamped, more robust health infrastructure.

Also Read: 6 Months On, A Recap Of How The Coronavirus Pandemic Unfolded

“Doctors for One Health” underscores that in order to successfully decrease the risk for a new pandemic causing outbreak or an outbreak of a similar virus, a ‘One Health’ approach is crucial.

The implementation of WHO’s One Health measures will likely reduce the risk of emerging zoonotic viruses of pandemic potential in the future, the collective asserts.

Dr Mini Khurana, from Lady Harding Medical College, says that such a proposition is unlike she’s seen before in her field.

Perhaps one of the rarer silver linings in the collective gloom of this year has been initiatives like this, and how we are willing to learn and collaborate in trying times. I am proud of the community rallying towards this noble, and necessary cause. One Health requires us to think of animal and human health together.

The measures demanded by the group of 100 plus doctors, may include not only implementation of legislations but also collaborative interdisciplinary control measures between agricultural and public health sectors, they said.

Also Read: Coronavirus Myths Explained: Are Children And Youngsters Less Vulnerable To Corona? 

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


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