This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shakir. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How Is A Pandemic Different From Other Disasters? And What Can The State Do?

More from Shakir

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

In simple terms, a disaster is defined as an event, which has caused damage to life and property. The disasters can be natural like, earthquakes, floods, landslides etc., they can be man-made like industrial accidents, oil spills, etc.

One disaster which is going on is the current COVID-19 health emergency which can be said to be more a manmade disaster, resulted from a man-animal conflict, than a natural one. Just like earthquakes, it is also difficult to predict when a pandemic will start. It is also difficult to predict that when it will end. But a pandemic is different from other disasters on many counts like:

Most disasters like earthquake, floods, famines and even man-made disasters like industrial accidents can be mapped geographically, and more or less limited to certain areas. Thus, relatively fixed location on maps helps in the allocation of resources in a better manner for preparedness, and response to such a disaster. But, a pandemic like COVID-19 is mostly not bounded by geography, as it is carried by the people, whose movement is driven more by economic, social and cultural factors, rather than geography.

Fixing man-made disasters in Indian metro cities | ORF
Representative image only.

Most of the other disaster doesn’t pose a challenge to the treatment protocols of the affected persons in medical care facilities. But the pandemics invariably poses a challenge to the existing protocols of the medical diagnosis and treatment. Thus, medical systems have to constantly evolve new strategies to treat the victims of a pandemic. This is challenging, as the development of treatment protocols and vaccines is a time-consuming process.

The phrases like the fatigue of the rescue worker are not heard in any other disasters, but it is most often heard during a pandemic. The simple reason is that the active phase of a pandemic usually lasts for years when compared to floods and earthquakes whose active phase is of few days. For example, the Spanish flu of 1918, was around for two years, the present COVID-19 pandemic is there for almost a year and a half, with no signs of weakening in near future.

So, these differences call for a different strategy to deal with the pandemic as a disaster. Some of the changes can be:

COVID-19 Pandemic In India: To Measure or Mis-Measure?
Representative image only.

There can be a district-wise, state-wise and nationwide lockdown strategy. Where instead of enforcing nationwide lockdown, a bubble of complementary districts can be identified. These shall be identified on the basis of economic, social and cultural factors, to limit the interaction of people and prevent the spread of disease. For example, an outbreak in New Delhi will not only affect New Delhi but also the neighbouring districts of other states in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Emergency approvals of drugs and treatment regimes are common in the present pandemic. In order to take quick and accurate decisions, artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used. It can help to churn into the big data, for developing treatment protocols and medicines, quickly.

Industrial clusters can be categorized as essential and non-essential industrial clusters. The essential industrial clusters shall be designed in such a way that in case of a pandemic they can function as a bubble. The infrastructure shall be such that the workers keep on producing the essentials without worrying about their shelter, medical and other facilities. A similar isolation strategy is pretty successful in the case of the eastern coast of India, where a number of cyclone shelters were made to temporarily accommodate the person living in cyclone-prone areas.

Protocols for easier communication with the general public can be developed. For example, New Zealand used Alert Levels 1,2,3 and 4 for informing the general public about the scenario of the pandemic in their country. Each alert level had some fixed guidelines/restrictions. Moreover, the country also used alert level maps, showing the geographical boundaries of different alert levels. Such alerts levels are easier to understand and comprehend by the general public and can be pretty useful in our case also.

India coronavirus dispatch: Covid-19 pandemic and policy solutions | Business Standard News
Representative image only.

The fatigue of frontline worker can be avoided, by providing them with basic facilities like PPE’s, showing sensitivity towards their work, appreciating their work at all levels, and providing a special grievance redressal mechanism to them.

Some of the above points can be used in the present pandemic also, some can be reserved for future considerations. There can be many more such points, but, as a unit, if we can plan better, we can face present or any future pandemic in a better way.

You must be to comment.

More from Shakir

Similar Posts

By Accountability Initiative

By India Development Review (IDR)

By Nupur Pattanaik

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below