Anup Subedee from Kathmandu noted how the pandemic exposed systematic failures in many aspects of life in Nepal, including non-Covid healthcare, child immunisation and maternity care.
“Medical staff have been working at great personal risk of infection, threats of violence, lack of access to protective gear, and an unaddressed mental health crisis,” Subedee said.
Participants also noted that the pandemic has particularly hit women hard.
“Domestic violence has increased,” noted Prasad. Women often lack control over finances, are primary caregivers and shoulder the responsibility of caring for the ill. The pandemic has pushed women further into the margins, she said, adding that there is also a “gender dimension to the access of vaccines”.
She urged doctors to enter the peace activism domain, because the poor all over are at the brink of disaster. She added that the pandemic had disproportionately affected women, Dalits, indigenous people, and other minorities.
“Telemedicine is important, but we must not lose focus on the need for ground-based public health to begin with,” she said.
Doctors at the meeting endorsed the need for greater cooperation and collaboration across borders. Participants called on the governments to allow free flow of critical equipment and medical personnel across borders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had floated the idea of a SAARC medical visa for patients and for medical teams to assist during the pandemic – something that must be followed up.
The doctors also urged the international fraternity to push for a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, waiver so that the Covid-19 vaccine production can be ramped up. “It is the way forward for vaccines for all,’’ asserted Prasad.
The South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) is primarily a coalition of individuals and organisations aiming to take forward a peace agenda for the region, building on the work done by mentors and leaders over the last few decades.
SAPAN founder and curator Beena Sarwar shared the story of this network and her vision for an inter-generational, multi-sectoral, inter- and intra-regional coalition of individuals and organisations coming together in broad consensus for a one-point agenda.