Difficult to survive in the era of epidemics without a change in global outlook: Experts

If radical changes are not made in the global approach to fighting infectious diseases, epidemics will emerge soon in the future. At the same time, they will spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than Covid 19. It is claimed that 22 top experts of the world have issued this warning today by issuing a report on bio-diversity and epidemics.

In an emergency virtual workshop organized by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform and Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to discuss the relationship between natural malfunctions and the growing threat of pandemics, experts agreed that the era of pandemics should be avoided. Provided that, instead of reacting, the basic changes in our attitude towards epidemics focus on prevention.

According to the report released on Thursday, Covid-19 is the sixth global pandemic since the Great Influenza epidemic in 1918. Though it started with microbes brought by animals, like all other epidemics, it also spread due to the harmful activities of humans in a complete way. It is estimated that there are 1.7 million ‘Ankhose’ viruses present in various species of mammals and birds. There are about 85 thousand of them who have the ability to infect humans.

Dr. Peter Dejak, president of EcoHealth Alliance and chairman of the IPDS Workshop, said, “There is no big mystery about the cause of Covid-19 or any modern pandemic.” Human activities that promote climate change and damage to biodiversity pose the risk of pandemics arising from their effects on our environment. Changes in the use of land, expansion and intensification of farming, non-stop businesses, nature-destroying production and consumption and increasing contact between wildlife, cattle, microbes and people are the things that call for epidemics. ”

According to the report, the risk of pandemics can be reduced to a large extent by reducing human activities that harm biodiversity. For this, protected areas will have to be better protected. At the same time, indiscriminate exploitation of extremely rich areas in terms of biodiversity will also have to be reduced. This will reduce contact between wildlife, cattle and humans and will help prevent new diseases.

Dr. Dejak said, “This strong scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion. We have good potential to prevent epidemics, but the way we are trying to prevent them at the moment, our capacity is being largely ignored. Our efforts are stalled. We still remain dependent on efforts to prevent diseases through the emergence of vaccines and medical treatment, but this requires more attention to prevention as well as response. “

With this, Dr. Sejal Vorah, Program Director of WWF India said, Human welfare is associated with nature’s health. We cannot continue to lose biodiversity at the current rate. It is still not too late to change policies and practices at the global, national and local levels to reduce the risk of future pandemics. ”

Ravi Chellam, CEO and Director of Metastring Foundation, Mission Secretariat, National Mission Project on Biodiversity and Human Welfare said, “The report clearly establishes the human causes on the environment as the root cause.” It is also clear that we are in an era of epidemics and no one is really safe. The economic costs of epidemics far exceed the costs to prevent them. Now economic reforms have to be looked at completely with a new look. “

The report says that after the disease is born, relying only on the steps of treatment or technological solutions, especially in the formulation and delivery of new vaccines and therapeutic cures, is actually a ‘slow and uncertain’ exercise. In this, the suffering suffered by humans at large and reducing the annual economic losses of hundreds of billions of dollars to the global economy on the treatment of these diseases.

According to an estimate made in the report, by July 2020, the Kovid-19 epidemic has caused between 8 and 16 trillion in damage all over the world. It is also estimated that by the fourth quarter of 2021, the US alone may suffer a loss of $ 16 trillion due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Experts estimate that the cost of reducing the risk of pandemics can be 100 times less than the amount spent on the treatment of such pandemics. This provides strong economic incentives for transformational change.

In this report, several policy related options have been given, which will help in reducing and dealing with the risk of pandemic. Chief among these are:

  • A high-level intergovernmental council should be set up to prevent epidemics, providing the best science and evidence about emerging diseases to policy makers, making predictions about high risk areas, economic impacts of potential diseases. Evaluate and underline the flaws in research. Such councils can also help in designing a global monitoring action plan.
  • Different countries, within the scope of an international agreement or agreement, set goals with mutual consent, which have obvious benefits for people, animals and the environment.

‘One Health’ should be institutionalized in governments to prepare for epidemics, to create better programs for epidemic prevention, and to control and investigate pandemic outbreaks in different areas.

  • Development and assessment of impacts on health of epidemics and emerging diseases should be added to major projects related to development and land use. At the same time, financial support for land use should be improved so that the benefits and risks associated with biodiversity are identified and they are clearly targeted.
  • Ensure economic losses due to epidemics are included as a factor in consumption, production, government policies and budget.
  • Bring down the varieties of consumption that promote epidemics, globalized agricultural expansion and business-reducing change. These changes include levying taxes or levies on all activities that greatly increase the risk of consumption of meat, livestock production and epidemics.
  • Reduce the risk of zoological diseases in the international wildlife business through new inter-governmental health and trade partnerships. In the wildlife business, the share of organisms with high risk of disease should be reduced or eliminated altogether. At the same time, the law should be tightened on all aspects of wildlife trafficking and the health hazards in wildlife business should be further enhanced by the people living in areas with disease hotspots.
  • Epidemic control programs, participation and knowledge of local people and community in achieving the goal of better food security and reducing the use of wildlife should be considered.
  • Gaps in critical information on key risk behaviors and other issues should be removed. The comparative importance of illegal and unregulated and legitimate and regular wildlife businesses in exposure to diseases should be noted and improved understanding of the relationship between ecological decomposition and its restoration, landscape structure and disease risk.

Dr. Annie Larigudery, Executive Secretary of IPBES, said of the workshop report “Covid-19 has shown the importance of science and expertise in policy and decision making.” However, this is not the traditional intergovernmental assessment report of IPBES. It is an extraordinary publication which presents the view of the world’s top scientists with new-found evidence amidst time-related constraints. We congratulate Dr. Dejak and all authors of this workshop report for significantly contributing to our understanding of the emergence of epidemics and the options to prevent and control future outbreaks. This will give direction to all the assessments happening in IPBES. At the same time, policy makers will gain a new consciousness about the risks of epidemics and options for prevention.

Also read in Hindi: ग्लोबल दृष्टिकोण में बदलाव के बिना महामारियों के युग से बचना मुश्किलः विशेषज्ञ