Every disaster recovery offers the development opportunity to rebuild, restore, and reshape the community sustainably
The devastation of Covid-19 has sent a clear message to the world leaders, researchers, policymakers and general citizens that our technology has failed again to tackle a natural calamity.
The Covid-19 outbreak has already reached all the continents with almost four million people affected and more than 120,000 people dead. No one knows when these fatalities will stop and how we can recover from it.
A recent United Nations report forecast that the world economy could shrink almost one percent due to Covid-19. However, if this outbreak continues a few more months or years, it will create huge social and economic losses.
There is no doubt that in any pandemic or climatic events poor people and developing countries are hardest hit due to a lack of adaptive capacity and resilience. In the Asia Pacific region, for example, around 400 million people still live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day and more than one billion live on less than $3.20 a day.
That is a tremendous amount of people highly vulnerable to food scarcity, job losses, famine due to their limited capacity to protect themselves against this invisible virus.
The Covid-19 outbreak reminds us that we need to give attention to public health and social protection. But public health issues in this region are worse than developed region.
According to an ESCAP 2020 report around 1.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation, and 260 million also lack access to clean water at home; 40 percent have no access to healthcare and more than 60 percent lack access to social protection.
Bangladesh ranks as the seventh most vulnerable country in the world to climate change and disaster and second in Asia. Bangladesh's economy, which mostly dependent on foreign remittances and exporting ready-made garments, has already been severely affected by Covid- 19.
Asian Development Bank predicts that Bangladesh will lose 0.2-0.4 percent of GDP and nearly 900,000 jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak. A densely populated country, Bangladesh has only eight hospital beds for every 10,000 people, and 0.5 doctors for per 1,000 people. In addition, 87 percent of workers are employed in the informal sector and are directly affected by the shutdown for Covid-19.
Like after other health crisis in the 20 th century – SARS, H1N1, Ebola and Spanish flu–sustainable recovery is essential. But the nature of Covid-19 makes it hard to predict a specific timeline.
Every disaster recovery offers the development opportunity to rebuild, restore, and reshape the community sustainably. It is also true that there is no universal paradigm to help communities recover from this pandemic. Previous experiences proved that different
communities recover differently.
But a sustainable recovery to Covid-19, using Build Back Better principles, could be possible if a combination of pre-event recovery plans and post-event actions are used.
Covid-19 has also been creating a number of geopolitical challenges including geopolitical risks like world peace and anti-globalisation splits; financial risks like broken supply chains and economic recession; ecological risks such as biodiversity challenges and climate change; social risks like disruptions to social cohesion and social distancing promoting and creating state dependency.
In contrast, Covid-19 also provides a few opportunities to rethink our investment to nature.
After this outbreak e-commerce business could boom, artificial intelligence will be prioritised, and investment in public health and virology research and healthy global supply chains will receive high priority.
Employment generation will be more important after the outbreak for sustainable economic recovery. Sustainable economic recovery plans, like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, allowed for the best investment in clean energy in US history, generating employment opportunities to address the world economic recession in 2008.
In terms of social and economic recovery, stimulus packages from the government need to be implemented quickly and phased out slowly. A comprehensive social protection system and regional or international cooperation could help to reduce the present socio-economic vulnerability and improve resilience for future risk.
A country like Bangladesh could adopt a strong recovery plan focusing on sustainable economic, social, infrastructural and environmental recovery for reducing Covid-19 vulnerability and creating greater community resiliency.
Finally, this pandemic will convince the world of our interconnectedness and the need for all of us to be world citizens. We will need to enhance global structures of governance, improving the efficacy of the United Nations and the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is only through sufficient attention to these issues that we will be able to effectively address issues like climate change and global pandemics.
Emadul Islam, is a Senior Analyst, BRAC and PhD, fellow &amp; YK scholar, University of Malaya