Ensuring basic rights and preventing future pandemics

Published : Tuesday, 28 April, 2020 at 12:00 AM

During the last few months, there is only one issue hovering all around the world and that is COVID-19 or deadly coronavirus. It has spread its black claws in 210 countries of the world. More than 2.9 million people got infected and over 0.2 million people lost their lives worldwide till now due to this life-threatening virus. Bangladesh has also been hardly hit by COVID-19 as 5,913 people were found infected and 152 died from the attack of this virus and the worst is yet to come as we can anticipate from all the trends till now. Though we are focusing highly on different measures to come out of the threats imposed by this pandemic and trying to contain the spread, there are no alternative to some preventive measures to fight this sort of pandemics in the future as this coronavirus situation might not be only challenge within the next few decades.

Bangladesh along with different countries of the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with all its might. Despite severe economic threat, public health was provided the greatest focus. It is true that, we were not ready for such a pandemic and our health facilities were not up to the mark. But considering the huge population, lack of decentralization and resource constraint, we cannot be very dissatisfied with our efforts. Along with threats towards the public health, coronavirus is being proved to be deadly for the economy – not only in the case of Bangladesh, but also in the case of many large economies of the world.

The government of Bangladesh, under the valiant and wise leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has acted considerably fast to address the public health issues as well as economic challenges. She tends to appreciate and accommodate ideas from experts along with her extraordinary strategic ability to address a scenario. This has created a trusting relationship between her and the people and this COVID-19 crisis scenario was no difference.Announcement of several stimulus package focusing on different economic groups and endangered professions along with huge relief effort to ensure food security of the citizens shows good intent of the government to be on the side of the peopleduring this crisis period. These efforts might help us to get over the current pandemic but several such pandemics and deadly diseases might appear in the near future also and that calls for some basic level preparation of the citizens.

To contain the spread of coronavirus in Bangladesh, the government closed all offices, factories, institutions from March 25 and requested the people to stay at home, which is the only way to be safe from this deadly virus. But from the reports in electronic and print media, we have seen that, millions of people everyday came out of their homes without any crying need. At the initial stage, as the educational institutes were closed, parents were found to move at different tourist zones with their children as if it was a vacation, which led to strict closure of those tourist places.

Moreover, as many people are moving on the streets, especially on by-lanes, many of them were found without facemasks or any other protective gears. Another instruction was to maintain personal hygiene by cleaning hands several times a day. But even without any reports, we can anticipate that, this instruction was also neglected. All these things led to a solid proof of the fact that, our citizens are not properly aware and careless. Hence, it is most important to make them careful and aware not only for COVID-19 but also for other future pandemics.

A major problem of our country is very low actual literacy rate. There are millions of people who are completely illiterate yet and millions are not actually literate though they can put on their signatures. Hence, this illiteracy is actually making us careless regarding different issues as these people actually cannot take rational instructions as well as cannot take proper decisions. Hence, it is very important to eliminate illiteracy from our society. The government should put utmost importance on ensuring education to the cent per cent of our population. Every child of this nation needs to receive proper education. If a single person remains uneducated, he or she remains directly or indirectly a burden for the society as well as for the country. We cannot blame an uneducated person for not following the instructions though that can be very alarming in situations like current crisis.

We need to ensure quality primary education for all. Along with regular education, the curriculum should include moral and ethical education as well as behavioral education from different aspects should be incorporated. Children must learn the right paths of life from the very beginning of their educational life and that will really push them to act on those in the future. To ensure quality primary education, along with curriculum, teachers and the institutions must also uphold quality and only then, we can educate our future generations rightly.

Our education system especially the curriculum unfortunately does not include much of health issues. In Japan, for example, the children are provided education on different health issues. At the very beginning of the schooling, they are trained on personal hygiene and on common health concerns. They are even taught about different insects which are harmful for human health and cause diseases. This education actually makes the children aware about the health and importance of being healthy. We do not have such education.

Every year, we are being the victims of dengue outbreak but we have not included this threat in our education in a proper manner to alert the children, Including different health issues in the education system and endorsing points on this education will make the children as well as parents to learn about these issues and hence, the next generations will be automatically more concerned about different health hazards and their solutions.

We all know that education is our basic right. Here we need to ensure that this right is ensured for all people and then we need to alert our future generations about different health issues by including them in the education as that will enable proactive preventive approach among the people. There are different types of health hazards in our country like; food adulteration, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, seasonal disease outbreak etc. and if the children can learn about those and the preventive measures in school, it will take much less to fight different diseases.

Many viruses like COVID-19 will emerge in the upcoming future as it was in the past with plague, Ebola, SERS, MERS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu etc. From the first phases, COVID-19 has changed in attributes in terms of symptoms and effects. There is a possibility that, we are facing a new version or upgraded version of coronavirus right now. In the future also, different viruses will come and we need to prepare our people to prevent the uncontrolled spread of those diseases.

Along with ensuring education and adopting health education in the curriculum, our government needs to invest heavily to form a proper health services system. Health is also another basic right. We need to ensure that every citizen of this country have complete access to medical facilities. During this COVID-19 scenario, it was proved that our health services system is very fragile.

We do not have modern treatment facilities, enough doctors and medical staffs and even proper hospitals with emergency response units throughout the country. We have very limited hospitals in the capital with proper modern facilities and can easily imagine the situation of the hospitals in the rural and suburb areas. But we need to ensure health for all. People should have access to low cost but modern medical facilities. We need to allocate a major part of our annual budget to the health sector in the upcoming years so that we are ready when another huge disaster hit our country as well as to ensure a healthy Bangladesh.

Ensuring food security for the whole population during and after this coronavirus crisis is of utmost importance. If someone has no food, he or she can do anything irrespective of the legality. Different crimes can go up and risks of rise of terrorism or fundamentalism also increases. The government is ensuring food security for 5 crore people with a total of one crore ration cards during this crisis period. But there should be ration card facility for the cent per cent of the population. Everyone should be covered with ration cards as that will ensure food security for all citizens irrespective of their social status.

It may sound difficult but several countries of the world like have this facility for their citizens. Moreover, the current ration card distribution system is completely corrupt and whatever we say, we cannot control nepotism – political or personal in this regard. But food is not the basic right for some people rather it is for all. Hence, the government should introduce ration card facility for everyone. It will be especially helpful for the middle class as they are really burdened with the increasing commodity prices and cost of living. If anyone from the upper class does not want to avail ration card, then they can get off the list. But the whole population should be brought under food security.

During the beginning of ‘Mujib Year’, the birth centenary of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, PM Hasina declared to arrange home for all homeless people. That is, shelter – a basic right of the people will be totally served. Clothing – another basic right is not a crying need now as it is in the reach of almost all the people of the country. Now, it is required to focus on the three basic needs of people – food, health and education.

We are standing on the verge of 50 year celebration of our independence along with the continuing birth centenary celebration of the father of the nation. Hence, marking these two occasions, the government should take a three to five year plan to fully ensure these three basic rights of the people. Here, commercialization of the rights under the free market economy should be avoided. Of course, private sector will be active but profit cannot be of focus and if required the government should subsidize these three basic needs at different ends.

During the last decade, Bangladesh has appeared as a role model of development in front of the whole world under the farsighted leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She had been uncompromising whenever it was about the progress of Bangladesh. But to sustain that progress as well as to reach all development goals like; SDGs or Vision 2041, we need to nurture a competitive and healthy human resource.

Ensuring basic rights like; food, health and education is now vital for Bangladesh for that reason. Hence, we hope the government will focus on protecting these three basic rights from now on irrespective of the existence of COVID-19 or similar threats as that will help us to attain our ultimate goal of a developed and soulful Bangladesh.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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