By Asha Jyothi
Most everyone living in a town or city in India has now seen a banner or poster, or even hoarding, proclaiming the slogan of One Earth, One Family, One Future- the official slogan of the G-20 summit that will end in October this year.
While the summit still retains its focus on convening Finance Ministers and Heads of State from the 20 countries of concern, the scope of the summit has broadened considerably since 2008, when it was first held as a response to the global financial crisis of that year- a crisis born of greed, not dissimilar to COVID-19. The G-20 summit today concerns itself with a range of sustainable development topics under a ‘Sherpa’ track- agriculture, education, civil society, digital economy, climate, and health. So the centrality of finance remains, interlaced with all of these topics- the Joint Finance and Health Taskforce
being a key example. “Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response” is the chosen theme of this taskforce, which, apart from being very topical, also happens to align with the idea of “One Earth, One Family, One Future”. We bear witness to a world where interconnectedness both amplified COVID-19, and broke down as the virus metastasized across it.
The Health Working Group under the Sherpa track also chose to elaborate on its vision for improving upon the ACT-A( Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator ) platform. Among its three pillars of Vaccines, Diagnostics and Therapeutics, it is vaccines under GAVI that most represents the preventative public health wand that India needs to wave if it wants to reach 2.7 million zero-dose children. This is the highest for a single country in the world but there are opportunities to seize. The government has invested in e-VIN, a technology to reduce vaccine stockouts and wastage, and signed an agreement with
GAVI, enabling it to receive US$ 250 million to target zero-dose statistics.
Smart technologies are handy, and with the right incentives, India’s vast pool of community health workers have proven to be an asset for many vaccination drives, but we can’t make it all the way without bolstering our delivery and storage infrastructure. This includes vaccination supply chains which need reliable freezers, which need reliable energy. A study focused on tribal communities found that more cold chain points were urgently needed in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, and that generator sets could ensure energy supply even during power cuts. Now, such a
scenario illustrates how we can win at SDG bingo. By solarizing our cold chains and making them more failproof, we can hit both our climate and health targets at once.
By investing in community-led monitoring for disease symptoms early on through health workers and telemedicine networks, we can avoid more expensive and carbon-intensive diagnostic and therapeutic solutions at the secondary care level. These are the intersections that the decision makers at the financing table would do well to seize.
Climate change has a profound impact on wellbeing- we know this intuitively even if we’re not tracking the rise in mosquito vectors with rising sea levels  . As we host more panels to discuss climate finance at high-levels, we need to make these interlinkages with people’s health as well as the health sector more visible. The more we mitigate climate change in meaningful, systemic ways- encouraging carbon trading markets, investing in net-zero solutions, but also setting up accountability mechanisms to stop and disincentivize indiscriminate forest trade– the less we need to worry about pumping
in money to respond to the next pandemic, because we would have already invested in climate-linked prevention. Species barriers between wild, exotic animals and humans would remain intact, early warning systems to detect climate-mediated illness would be running smoothly, even mosquitoes would annoy us less.
(The author is a Policy and Advocacy Catalyst at Swasti Health Catalyst. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)