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What Will The Post-COVID World Look Like? A Few Changes Have Already Arrived

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A new chapter in history is about to begin as the world fights the coronavirus pandemic, as declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In this context, let’s look at how the pandemic might affect our world.

COVID-19, also known as SARS-Cove-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has mutated itself into a pandemic that threatens our lives. The virus, which originated in China, is spreading around rapidly across the world, killing millions of people.

For human beings, COVID-19 and SARS-COV-2 (TNA2) vaccines or antiviral drugs have so far not been able to prevent or effectively treat the viral infection.

The Story Of COVID-19

Scientists say that COVID-19 is a prime example of a cross-species transmission —simply put, it means viruses that jump from one category to another. The new coronavirus first appeared in a fish market in Wuhan, China where fresh fruits and vegetables, live fish, birds and animals are sold. The virus is thought to have been transmitted from one bird or animal to another and later to humans.

Wuhan is the capital of Huba Province, China. It is the most populous city in China with over 11 million people. From here, the Han River flows rapidly into the Yangtze. It is an important commercial and industrial transportation hub. With more than 350 research institutes, 1,656 high-tech ventures, numerous enterprise incubators, and investments from 230 Fortune Global 500 firms, the city of Wuhan is well-connected globally.

Image Source: Inventive

The virus spread rapidly from Wuhan to other cities in China, and later to other parts of the world. Although it started in November 2019, it was thought to be a common viral fever. Recognising the seriousness of this, Chinese health workers and the government ignored warnings. On 29th December, 2019, the first COVID-19 death was confirmed in Wuhan. Subsequently, on 3rd January, 2020, 44 COVID cases were reported in a singe day. Of these, 11 cases were found to be extremely serious.

Within weeks, this number had more than doubled. It first affected China as well as other Asian countries. The coronavirus then spread to Italy and other European countries, the United States, and later to Arab countries and India. Countries such as the United States and India declared the pandemic a national health emergency or closed the country altogether to prevent the virus from spreading and prepare for emergency healthcare at almost the same time.

Lockdowns have been introduced around the world in view of the growing prevalence of the disease, and authorities across many parts of the world have opposed the protest with the available police forces, special services and army. The health statistics of the sick and the dying were collected and made a subject of multiple studies.

Several studies suggest that up to 80% of those infected may be asymptomatic carriers of the virus. That is, they transmit the virus to others without showing any symptoms of the virus. Many people have mild symptoms, similar to that of common cold, which can be cured without any special treatment. This indicates that viruses have widespread within the community.

COVID-19 is extremely dangerous to some people. Elderly people, people with heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or serious illnesses such as cancer and pneumonia are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of the virus. In this case, it is rare for such people to survive.

The cases that are now being confirmed are considered just the tip of the iceberg. For many, the case goes unreported. The lack of inspection systems is evident in many developed countries. It is still low in most of the developing countries. The exact number of COVID-19 patients and deaths is unknown. Many in the social literature go without adequate scrutiny.

Why Is COVID-19 Important?

First, this is not the first time that the world is facing a pandemic. During World War I, H1N1 viruses with avian genes caused the deadly influenza. The Spanish Influenza of 1918-19 affected 500 million people — 1.5% of the world’s population at that time — and at least 50% of the 50 million infected may have died. But some estimates put the death toll at a 100 million.

Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in a subway station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The first case of coronavirus in Macao was confirmed on Wednesday, according to state broadcaster CCTV. The infected person, a 52-year-old woman, was a traveller from Wuhan. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Sica, avian, swine flu and Nipah have also been reported recently. The H1N1 virus, reported in 2009, is the most common form of swine flu. In the United States alone, 60.8 million people were infected, 2,74,000 were hospitalised, and 12,500 people died. It is estimated that the H1N1 virus may have killed more than a million people worldwide. A research estimates that the H1N1 pandemic may have affected 11% to 21% of the global population, or at least one billion people, so far.

COVID-19 is the most dangerous infectious disease after influenza. According to Tedros Adanom Gebrias, head of the World Health Organisation, the new coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than the 2009 pandemic. COVID-19 proves that even in the richest economies on the planet, humans are still just ordinary human beings.

Zoonotic infections and diseases transmitted from other organisms to humans are on the rise. Of the 335 new infectious diseases identified by scientists since 1940, two-thirds have been found to be caused by wildlife, especially bats. COVID-19 certainly highlights the danger to humans from such diseases, and draws public attention to infectious diseases and public health.

Second, the character of COVID-19 is likely to change, as did black death in the fourteenth century Europe. Political leaders imposed shipbuilding, travel bans and unprecedented lockdowns, the power of the centers of power increased considerably. Many fear that once the pandemic is over, these extraordinary emergency forces will become key features of liberalism.

Third, COVID-19 breaks down many of the decrees and its institutions that emerged after World War II. US President Donald Trump called COVID-19 the Chinese virus and then the Wuhan virus at the US State Department G7 summit. This exacerbated the US-China conflict. The United States has cut off funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is believed to have a very friendly relationship with China.

mask kept on dollar notes

Competition is not about cooperation, it seems in today’s world order. International institutions are significantly weakening. Countries around the world are competing for healthcare devices and medicines, to find an effective vaccine. The world’s largest pharmaceutical laboratories are doing the same.

Fourth, COVID-19 has caused the largest economic earthquake since the Great Depression of 1929. The free flow of goods, services and people has stopped. The supply chain has been disrupted. The need has dried up. Deficits, debt and unemployment have risen sharply. Millions of people around the world have gone jobless. COVID-19 is moving forward through a proportional economic crisis, creating a historic economic model.

Fifth, COVID-19 focuses on a sharp environment. Cities around the world can hear the sounds of birds chirping and see a blue sky. It is now clear that the world will be a more comfortable habitat if pollution is a little less. If things go back to normal after the end of the pandemic, climate change will destroy a very complex ecosystem. Many bacteria that are currently inactive under the permafrost that melts in tissues and cells pose a threat to the release of dangerous viral infections. It is already clear that the environmental conditions are different than before.

Finally, COVID-19 has an incalculable impact on society. On the one hand, solidarity is growing in many directions. Many are helping their neighbours and showing kindness to strangers. On the other hand, some have also been victim to hatred and discrimination.

Racism against Asians and other minorities is on the rise in the West. As in the case of African expatriates in China, hostility and domestic violence against anyone with the disease has increased significantly in developing countries such as India and Pakistan, as well as in rich countries such as the United Kingdom and France.

Many interesting trends are emerging. As more than half of the world’s population is forced to live at home, remote work is on the rise. In addition, many classes have moved online, restaurants have closed, some people are eating healthier, while most are not, sale and use of intoxicants has rise, so has the use of television gaming and pornography. In poor countries, people are struggling to put food on the table.

All of these factors will persist for a long time in the community. COVID-19 will create a new world. It will take some time to reveal its full features.

About the author: Sunil is a Communication Associate at the Institute for Sustainable Development and Governance. 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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