Mains Daily Question
March 27, 2023
The State of the World’s Forests 2022 report found that India might become a zoonotic disease hotspot over the next 50 years. In this context, elaborate on the challenges posed by it in India. How can India prepare itself to address this challenge?
Introduction: Explain what zoonotic diseases are and why they are becoming more common.
- Mention the challenges posed by such diseases in India.
- Also, about ways in which government can prepare itself to address the challenge.
Conclusion: Provide a way forward, connecting it with sustainable development goals in 2030.
The recent havoc created by the COVID-19 outbreak has led to a greater awareness of and concern for zoonotic diseases and their spread. Zoonotic illnesses are transmissible from animals to people and vice versa. They include many domestic and wild animals as zoonotic disease carriers. Due to ecological changes, greater commerce in animal products, and climate change, which has made locations more favourable for microorganisms, zoonotic illnesses are on the rise.
The challenges posed by zoonotic diseases in India are:
- In rural and urban regions, poor sanitation and hygiene practices contribute to the spread of zoonotic illnesses. A WHO report says that 75% of the people in India don't have access to basic sanitation facilities. This could lead to higher mortality in case of transmission.
- Due to a lack of monitoring and reporting mechanisms, the discovery and reaction to epidemics are delayed.
- Deforestation and encroachment on animal habitats increase human-wildlife encounters. This leads to more transmission of zoonotic diseases and thus makes our population more vulnerable.
- Poor disease prevention and control strategies are due to a lack of veterinary and public health infrastructure. There is a shortage of veterinarians in India, with one for every ten thousand animals.
- Non-availability of world-class medical facilities, treatments, doctors, nurses, etc. throughout the country. This leads to a huge chunk of the population becoming vulnerable without any proper medical attention being provided.
- The misuse and abuse of antibiotics result in the emergence of zoonotic diseases with antibiotic resistance.
- Insufficient knowledge and education regarding zoonotic illnesses result in poor health-seeking behaviour.
- Responses to epidemics are fragmented due to a lack of coordination and cooperation among sectors and stakeholders.
India may prepare to face these difficulties by implementing the following:
- Enhancing disease monitoring and reporting systems. Example: In 2004, the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program was initiated.
- Overall improvement of the healthcare sector in both qualitative and quantitative terms. This means better quality of treatment along with the increased capacity of hospitals to handle patients.
- Improving sanitation and hygiene habits, like with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan initiative, which was begun in 2014,
- Conservation of animal habitats and promotion of sustainable forestry practices in accordance with the 2017 National Wildlife Action Plan
- Increasing infrastructure for veterinary and public health care
- Promoting the appropriate use of antibiotics in people and animals, as emphasized in the 2017 National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance.
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) projects also aim to teach the public about zoonotic diseases and make them more aware.
- Strengthening cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination, as the National One Health Framework for the Prevention and Control of Zoonotic Diseases introduced in 2018 attempts to do.
Overall, tackling the threats presented by zoonotic diseases is essential for attaining Sustainable Development Goal 3—good health and well-being. The one-health concept, which acknowledges the interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health, is crucial for avoiding and managing zoonotic illnesses and supporting sustainable development.