Double-disaster looming with Non-Communicable Diseases - CIRA | Daily News


Double-disaster looming with Non-Communicable Diseases - CIRA

A surge in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) may trigger a double-disaster in Sri Lanka in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, says Contingency Intelligence & Response Agency (CIRA), a think-tank steering an overarching disaster prevention, mitigation and management mechanism in the SAARC region. While the corona virus pandemic has turned the country’s health system on its head, the chief contributor may just be that patients with underlying illness are reluctant to come to hospitals or are not able to do so due to ripple effects of the pandemic.

Reportedly, over 137,000 people died of NCDs in 2017 and chief among contributors were cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. Even though NCDs do not receive the hype of an unknown corona virus like the Covid-19, NCD mortality rate in Sri Lanka, according to Health Department statistics, is between 20%-30% higher than what is reported from developing countries. Add the numbers of other illnesses to this, the Covid-19 pandemic is precipitating another health disaster and must receive an urgent response from the authorities.

Compounding the issue may be a fear among people of going to hospitals as was previously customary due to the fear-psychosis created by the advent of the Conid-19 virus. Making an already worsening crisis is an interruption of medication schedules from difficulties arising from lockdowns, as well as, sudden financial meltdowns experienced by low-income earners.

Incidents of deaths, according to our analysts, show a disproportionate propensity towards people who are economically marginalized with NCDs including kidney and liver disease prevalent more in rural areas of the country. Contributing factors, however, transcend poverty and include unhealthy dietary habits and heavy consumption of alcohol.

While CIRA will be drawing from statistics and research from the Covid-19 as it studies underlying issues which contribute to catastrophes within disasters, there is an urgent need to address the latest developments leading to a double disaster. The country must take its long-standing health disasters seriously!

Patients and families play a dominant part in arresting the issue while it is easy to expect government intervention at every level, including heightened levels of response when a disaster occurs. Many families are reportedly reluctant to report patients with fever fearing a backlash from the neighborhoods, with Covid-19 suspects stigmatized as societies still try to come to terms with an unknown disease. While examining a more prepared disaster response, the government should seize the opportunity to create impactful awareness influencing people to take their health more seriously and support vulnerable people and neighborhoods deal with the crisis without stigmatization.

Compounding the threat is a probable worsening of already unhealthy lifestyles of a considerable section of society with lifestyles heavily affected by the lockdowns.

The pandemic presents a timely window to address the issue of community and individual health if Sri Lanka is to prevent a health disaster, warns CIRA.

Developing global and national events mute testimony to the all-important need for disaster preparedness by way of an all-encompassing strategy which governments alone cannot do and calls for wider involvement.

Contingency Intelligence & Response Agency (CIRA) is a think-tank and catalyst for an overarching disaster response mechanism in SAARC countries bringing scientific research, international cooperation and private sector resources together in support of the governments to be ‘crisis-ready’.

Headquartered in Sri Lanka, CIRA will develop a base model in Sri Lanka while seeking to bring in regional partners to the task force.

The SAARC Development Fund, University of Colombo and Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry are among CIRA’s partners in this exhaustive and challenging mission.

CIRA’s mandate is to develop an overarching disaster prevention, mitigation and management protocol so that governments can respond to evolving and dynamic situations and needs through a structured, responsive and relevant mechanism.

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