It became eighth nation to declare itself free of any active coronavirus case? So what it did successfully that many developed nations could not?
On Sunday at a news briefing in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden declared that New Zealand has successfully eliminated transmission of novel COVID19 and is ready to open its economy and day to day life without any restrictions. This wonderful news came at a time when still more than half of the world is still grappling with active cases of this pandemic disease including in nations like USA,UK, India, China, UAE etc. So what a small nation like New Zealand did which even giant economies could not able to do to contain this virus disease?
New Zealand is a country of Five million people. Although population is not large as to other countries including Australia yet the course of action its health ministry did is definitely commendable. It pursued an ‘Elimination Strategy’ to beat deadly coronavirus which means it eliminated ‘chains of transmission’ of virus among people successfully for 28 days since June 15.
Health experts are of the view that due to its isolated location in the South- Pacific region, New Zealand had ample amount of time to notice the outbreak of this disease in other countries and for seven weeks, it went on complete lockdown with movements allowed only for essential workers. During seven week lockdown there was no news of people violating any government restrictions that were put in place. All these factors successfully averted any chain reaction of virus among its people. Due to strict government action and active participation by its citizens, only 1500 people contracted the virus including 22 death.
However, New Zealand Prime Minister took note of the situation that from Tuesday all restrictions will be lifted except border closure restriction and that there is a possibility that incoming cases of coronavirus may be found in people entering into New Zealand via airways.
New Zealand became eighth country to join exclusive group of nations successfully ending active COVID19 cases according to Johns Hopkins University. Besides New Zealand, Montenegro, Eritrea, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Holy See, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Fiji, East Timor have either have successfully eliminated any active cases.
Developed and Developing economies must consider the policies adopted by these nations’s government in containing growing active cases in their countries and must implement it in their policies. These 8 countries can now look forward to accelerate their economy without any restriction and loss of life due to coronavirus whereas other nations who have lifted restrictions partially or completely are still at huge risk of losing lives and more spread of this pandemic disease.
“It’s time for big nation to learn from so called small nations”
On Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that he is terminating US membership in World Health Organisation as he was not satisfied with the way this international organisation is handling China’s response to Coronavirus. In a press briefing he reiterated his commitment “ to withdraw financial contribution to WHO and redirect that funds to other urgent global public health needs”.
The USA is major financial contributor to WHO providing almost $450 million a year followed by China who contributed almost one-third to what America contributes and this may be one of the reason why Trump took such stern action against WHO for not taking any significant step towards China to address the ongoing pandemic situation. USA till now lost more than one lakh citizens due to COVID19 and the overall global death figure is even worse. Entire world has to come up a with a vaccine to counter this virus disease. Many fear that even though some countries are successful in flattening curve of infected cases, yet the worst isn’t over and it may very well play havoc with change in climate conditions. Countries like USA, UK, India etc. haven’t seen peak in number of cases even though number of infected people are increasing day by day. Another factor which could have played significant role in Trump’s decision is economic recession the world is facing include USA too who has to shut off its manufacturing and other economic activities for almost two months while during that time, China started its business and production sector at fast pace. So it comes natural that Trump has justified his reason of holding its fund to WHO and accusing of biased response towards China.
Some political pundits and health experts views Trump’s decision as short-sighted and one which would eventually put US citizens health at risk. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Chairman of the Senate Health , Education, Labor and Pensions Committee expressed his opinion in a statement that ‘Withdrawing U.S. membership could interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines which US citizens and others in the world needs’.
European Union and many Asian countries have urged President Trump to reconsider his decision of withdrawal of US membership from WHO as it was the USA who was the founding member of WHO and such decision will deeply affect economic contribution, research and development in global health sector. Whatever the future holds, it is too early to say anything on how USA’s withdrawal from WHO is going to affect global health services. But one thing can be said for sure is that the objective of Trump’s decision to pressurize China in taking responsibility for this pandemic situation is not going to bear any result and with such withdrawal USA has given golden platter to China to play dominant role with WHO member states.
“Ensuring everyone’s right to food and nourishment is an imperative we cannot ignore”- Pope Francis
Few days back I was going through my twitter feed when I came across very disturbing tweet posted by leading news channel. The caption reads ‘Shocking extent of Hunger : Starving man found eating dead dog near Jaipur , Viral video stuns India’. It shocked me to the core and forced me to think that are we failing each other as humans. The world is going through tough times right now in form of novel coronavirus and the worst isn’t over. This pandemic situation has put world on alert from the beginning of the year and as a result of it, more than 75% part of the world went into lockdown. Obviously, the worst hit among the society was the poor strata and the migrant labours especially in Indian context. Despite many assurances and relief packages announced by the Government of India, it hasn’t reached to all those in dire need of financial assistance and food. Many people of low income and those living in slums and on street fear more of dying due to hunger than of coronavirus. At the time of writing this, there is some relaxation given by the government but the problem of access to food remains very apprehensive. The world has developed so much after two world wars, the standard of living of people has improved tremendously in last 70 years or so and availability of goods has expand immensely, yet human beings find great difficulty to access the most basic need i.e. Food.
Isn’t Right to Food a basic human right and fundamental right in India ? Is it a global fundamental right? What has UN and agency doing to make sure every individual on this planet has access to food without much hardship?
In India, The Supreme Court in various legal cases stated that Article 21 of the Constitution of India, guarantees that ‘No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except procedure established by law’. The scope of ‘Right to Life’ includes ‘Right to Food’. The two most leading cases where Supreme Court took above mentioned view is ManekaGandhi vs. Union of India AIR 1978 SC 597 and ShantistarBuildersvs. Narayan Khimalal Totame (1990) 1 SCC 597. Apart from Article 21, Article 39(a) of the Constitution which deals with Directive Principles of State Policy requires the state to direct its policy towards securing that all its citizens have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. Even after the scope of Article 21 being expanded so much by the top court to include ‘Right to Food’ as part of Fundamental Right, it is disturbing to see that real situation is not what one assumes.
A special law was passed in 2013 known as The National Food Security Act. It is an Act to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable price to eligible household identified under section 10(1) shall be entitled to receive five kilograms of food grain per person under targeted public distribution system. In recent time, millions of people living below poverty line are benefitted directly through this act especially those that are identified on basis of their economic and social situation but what about those that are poor but do not have any prove to show their economic status? This act needs amendment to include every person who are financially in distress even for temporary period of time.
Globally, Access to food is our basic human right and as recognised in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as part of the “Right to an adequate standard of living….Including food, clothing, housing ” under Article 25(1). The signatory States of The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(ICESC) recognized the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family under Article 11(1) and the states also recognized “The fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger and shall take measures either individually and through international co-operation” under sub-clause 2. Right to free from hunger cannot be interpret as right to access to food as these are two different concept. While right to freedom from hunger can be measured in terms of malnutrition, Free to access food is measured by close availability of food without much hardship to people who don’t have any financial or limited financial respurces.
Food is necessity for human survival. It is one of the basic needs of any human being. But unfortunately, as per UN report in 2018, more than 821 million people suffered from hunger. One in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead nutritional life. Hunger is one of the biggest risks to health worldwide almost at par with covid-19 which is turning out to be deadly in the world right now. To make sure that people have access to food, world leaders in 2000 gathered at UN to share common vision to end poverty and formulated eight ‘Millenium Development Goals’. In 2010, it was officially declared that MDG was successful in reducing the poverty numbers by half and the proportion of under- nourished people in the region fell by almost half.
Another initiative undertook by UN to eradicate hunger is ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ in 2012 during Rio+20 world conference on sustainable development. It calls for 100% access to adequate food all year round and zero loss or waste of loss among other measures. One of the consistent Sustainable Development Goals is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030 but such target would require equal and active participation by all the member states. Apart from UN food access programme and goals, there are agencies like World Food Programme which aims to bring food assistance to more than 80 million people in 80 countries and to respond food related emergency. World Bank’s priority in global agriculture sector is to raise investment in this sector to boost nutrition, food production and to built a food system that can feed everyone everywhere. Another agency working tirelessly to achieve hunger free world is UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Its purpose is to make sure that people have enough access to high quality food to lead healthy life. The International Fund for Agriculture Development is focusing exclusively to eradicate hunger in rural areas in developing countries and to improve lives of those living in rural area.
But in spite of all these efforts by current government and governments in the past, some states have failed to implement access to food as part of ‘right to life’ in their policies. The availability of food grain in India is sufficient but still why many people live in hunger and are forced to eat dead animals is one we should collectively examine and needs to act with generosity. Internationally, the situation is same and in some parts of the world even worse. The member states needs to acknowledge ‘Free access to food and no waste of food by individual or corporate’ and declare it a global fundamental right. To say that it is the duty of governments to make sure very human being is being fed daily is wrong. Just recognizing ‘Right to Food’ as fundamental right is not enough but working collectively towards achieving equal access to food should be the aim of every member states of UN.
Individually, we as humans need to stand up for each other and make sure to feed those in need. If every person is able to feed one other person, then we as human beings then we can beat poverty problem
No one had ever imagined that 2020 is going to be ‘A Survival Year of Human Race’. Indians too never imagined that there will be time when all of them have to confine to their home for more than 1 month at least. At the time of writing this, as per official figure issued by Ministry Of Health, there are more than 96 thousand confirmed cases of coronavirus and three thousand people have lost their lives. Considering India’s population right now it can be safely assume that rate at which coronavirus is spreading across nation is slow and it’s good news. India took active measures to contain this disease much before it was declared as ‘Pandemic situation’ by World Health Organisation’.
But the actions taken by the government during this whole phase at times felt without a concrete plan, protocol and are whimsical. As citizens, we cannot completely blame government and law because we did not anticipate this kind of serious situation. The word pandemic and related term is nowhere mentioned in any Indian Law and how to deal with it. The governments at Central and state level are practically relying on three existing laws which were enacted in last century. There is only one law which was enacted in post Y2K was The National Disaster Management Act, 2005 (NDMA). In this act, only the term ‘disaster’ is defined and its scope has been explained. According to section 2(d), the term ‘disaster’ means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in area, arising from natural or man made causes or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, degradation of, environment and is of such a nature that is beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area. Chapter II and III of the said act explain functions of National and State Disaster Management Authority in times of disaster and to prepare plan to mitigate disasters. The most important provision under this act which provides some sort of guidance to the government is provided under section 35 which deals with measures taken by the government for disaster management and includes coordinated action between ministries and governmental departments, ensure the integration of measures for prevention of disasters, allocation of funds for prevention and mitigation disaster, coordination with UN agencies and international organizations etc.
The scope of term ‘Disaster’ definitely needs to be widened so to include pandemic and any future catastrophic event and the measures taken by the government in case of crisis needs to be more inclusive like a national plan with regard to movement, employment, providing basic resources like food and shelter to those in need during such natural emergency etc.
Another law that deals with epidemic is The Epidemic Act of 1897 recently amended by way of Ordinance. The new amendment act provides for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic disease. The motive behind bringing an ordinance is to protect the lives of healthcare personnel who are carrying out their public duty to contain pandemic situation from any harm, injury, hurt and danger to life. The new epidemic Act fails to include the term ‘pandemic’ and anything related to it.
Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code is third and last legal provision that the Central Government has strictly enforced on the people including non-citizens. Section 144 prohibits gathering of more than 5 people in public places failing which a person shall be liable to be punished up to 3 years of imprisonment. But even this legal provision is proving to be ineffective especially after first phase of lockdown. Migrants from various states of India were seen protesting in big numbers in public place demanding basic needs and many of them in big numbers are moving on foot to reach their native place. Even after gathering at worship place is banned including opening and entry, at few occasions worshippers were gathering to mark festival or religious event.
India isn’t the only country who doesn’t have legal framework to deal with such catastrophe. Many developed nations are also doesn’t equipped with special or separate law to deal with this type of virus disease which globally has created a havoc. This critical time apart from misery has given us an opportunity to prepare and equip ourselves to face similar event in future if need arise.
After India successfully achieves flattening curve in controlling this disease and once life goes on with normal routine. The government must look into serious loopholes our legal system has with regard to health emergency and health care and come up with a separate law to deal with pandemic diseases or events in exhaustive manner. It must also include measures to be taken regarding continuous employment of those who cannot work from home and are in dire need of earning basic financial resources for themselves and those who are dependent on them. Government has recently announced huge financial relief for all sectors of economy but now India is in phase where life is eventually becoming normal from standstill.