Why social impact must be independent of Covid-19

Industries need to understand that social impact is necessary, and seeing a programme implemented in action is important than merely donating to a cause.

 |  4-minute read |   03-06-2020
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Coronavirus has shaken our world strongly and sent economies into difficult times. It has enabled some businesses to tweak, and cash into newly-formed markets. But for most, it has nearly damaged and collapsed an ecosystem created by man for man, at least temporarily.

With lockdown in place and often hurriedly implemented in many countries, without risk-informed planning in the right frame, the social impact came to a standstill with vulnerable families being hardest hit. Big industries driving social impact can still continue to thrive and shine and rise like never before. Some of them did act to support Covid-19 beyond the call of duty and obligation. But did we miss the big picture?

Development through the decades

Countries like India have seen years of development and transformation, which cannot be credited to an individual, a particular government or company. It has been collective social goodwill that built this country into a modern-day power. Breakthrough transformation in education, healthcare, defence, power and energy, environment, we have seen it all. This didn’t happen overnight, and obviously didn’t just happen after the Companies Act 2013 was enforced with corporate social responsibility as a built-in obligation. Corporate India worked hard with the governments even before that and continue to do so even now. Time and again, they rose to the occasion to bail out India’s woes. This was a reality due to decades of hard work, social spending and genuine upliftment for transformational change.

main_healthcare_reut_060320013125.jpgIt is in the best interest of every sector to invest in health. (Representative photo: Reuters)

Today with coronavirus, corporate entities and governments have panicked, which should never have been the order of the day. Institutions built on strong foundations remain resilient and tough. Tough times never last long; tough institutions do.

Social responsibility independent of coronavirus

Corporate India has been working with non-government organisations in building a beautiful space towards upliftment. This is a space which was built and documented well through data, through stories, through case studies, through scientific publications and real-world impact. Government has contributed well in facilitating development and cooperated more than often. What stands important to be understood is to not jump the ship to support coronavirus as a standalone entity, but to continue working independently, supporting old programmes, initiating new programmes and writing a fiercer and more resilient story for development.

main_migrant-rajasth_060320012731.jpgWith daily wage earners and migrant labourers out of job, the burden of malnutrition will only get magnified. (Photo: Reuters)

Going by estimates and reports, due to lockdown, cancer institutes have seen a decline of more than 50 per cent of patients turning up for chemotherapy and surgery. This is because of not having access to public transport, private taxis being too expensive and not having health assistants to organise their hospital visit and stay when needed. Moreover, glaring irregularities have been cropping up with regard to children under the age of five and the burden of severe acute malnutrition, and the already existing burden of moderate acute malnutrition. With daily wage earners and migrant labourers out of job, this burden will only get magnified. Maternal nutrition and women’s health as a comprehensive whole gets neglected in this process.

Perhaps developmental goals can choose to focus greatly on nutrition and women’s health as a responsibility to safeguard and secure. Primary healthcare has taken a serious beating with little or no focus being given to general health and well-being. Developmental activities are temporarily halted at many places due to lockdown policy and lockdown fear, some aligned to focus on showcasing Covid-19 alone, and this may become a watershed moment for development.

Industries need to retro-fit and understand that social impact is necessary now more than ever before, and seeing the programme implemented in action is important than merely donating to a cause and being happy about having done something.

21st century calls for investing in healthcare

We are at a moment in history where we have to learn from the past to write a new story, a story where humanity is included as a collective whole, where cross-sectoral linkages like heritage and health, culture and health, business and health, economics and health, farm and health, animals and health, environment and health as a deeper reality must begin to surface and be defined. Health must be a focus that hovers around every conversation, every dinner table, every policy forum, every social impact committee, every government grant and every UN spending.

Whether you like it or not, the post-Covid-19 world belongs to healthcare and it is in the best interest of every sector — including healthcare’s own — to invest in health, strategically and meaningfully.

(Co-authored by Delma Coelho, Head, Special Projects, CHD Group)

Also read: Why India needs a new social protection deal

Writer

Edmond Fernandes Edmond Fernandes @edmondfernandes

Dr Edmond Fernandes is a community health physician leading efforts for the CHD Group, headquartered in Mangalore, India. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council.

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