Abul Kalam Mohammad Humayun Kabir;
Over the millennia, major wars and pernicious pandemics shaped history resetting orders, refining civilizations, system of productions and consumptions even altering climate, way of life etc.
By far, both wars and deadly diseases are highly destructive, brutal, pervasive and complicated enemies of mankind.
Indeed, both cause worst of human tragedies. So why, both are consummately abhorred, although, ironically both are inevitable and emerge as they wish at great human’s trepidations and possibility of perils.
The War of Westphalia, two great World Wars and even our War of Liberation 1971 remained over the centuries as watershed game changer events. Deadly diseases too contributed to the course of history in different eras.
In the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance period and in the following centuries, onslaught of virulent diseases like tuberculosis, smallpox, influenza etc. continued bashing the mankind almost unabated. Pandemics like influenza swept the world at regular intervals in last 500 years. Just a century ago ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918 alone killed over 50 million people worldwide, more than the World War I total casualties.
So, now comes the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 to devastate and change our world with full fury and venoms. As we witness with horror and media floods with news of its ferocity, the world trembles with fear and uncertainty. It has already killed over forty thousand and infected over a million people all over the globe in just about three months. It has ensued lockdown, social distancing, closing of institutions, industries, businesses, financial and economic activities changing the very way of life.
Evidently, the world is caught by surprise; awed and shocked. It is now in great turmoil, on its knee– in a state of fix; in standstill. No one knows its final extent of carnage – its ultimate ramifications. Much boasted advancement in science and technology, cutting-edge ICT, AI, warheads and all other innovations proved futile! Which is why, the world should rethink and reform the whole gamut of defensive arrangements for mankind against future pandemics.
As the menace intensifies, the world suffers, people dies, life contracts, economy slides, nations and their governments dither and react rather slowly. These procrastinations and half – hearted late reactions caused number of countries to suffer heavily on one hand and conduced the virus to gain new grounds on the other. Now it is poised to decimate the only super power the United States of America taking great tools and turning it hapless. The Covid–19 portends to be one of the worst pandemic in the history of the world with grave consequences. By all counts, it is a formidable unprecedented nontraditional existential global health, social and security threat.
Indeed, there is no time and scope now for wavering or slackness anymore. Humanity must act immediately, concertedly and complimentarily being on war footing.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General called for adopting war–time plan with trillions to support global mission. This being a unique, critical global problem, it demands a holistic, well synchronized, collaborative global response with due urgency by all.
Any plan adopted should be broad, creative and comprehensive consisting of a bundle solutions to include but not limited to health services, economic and financial matters and sociological dimension to deal with social issues.
It should be disseminated quickly and actions start immediately to save lives and minimize damages. All leaders, nations, regional alliances and bodies, institutions like the UN, WHO, World Bank, IMF, ADB, IDB, IOs, NGOs, and other health organizations, research centres, volunteers and individuals join hands to save the mankind.
As of now, Bangladesh is moderately affected by the virus with 56 cases and 6 deaths. Despite, it has taken number of measures like launching of awareness campaign, closing of transports, educational institutions, offices, businesses, etc. social distancing, setting up of facilities for quarantine under the supervision of Army, locking down of houses and areas albeit sporadically, deployment of Army etc.
Quite impressive long list.
But would these really be enough against monster like Covid-19 when it strikes Bangladesh with full power of pulverization as already demonstrated in Europe and the US? We need to approach the issue more practically and get ready comprehensively and act accordingly so that people are saved both from the disease and hunger and futuristically beyond the current crises to restore normalcy and prosperity.
Reports predict that the situation in Bangladesh is likely to aggravate. And because of our limited capacity, shortages of medical resources, other logistics, facilities and funds, the consequences could be grim. Plausibly, we have no alternative to afoot all out preparations against the impending threats. A smart and intelligent strategy and action plan, galvanizing the much needed national unity, enhancing our societal ethos and spirits, utilizations of all instruments of national power, deployment of all means and mechanism, exactly as we would ensure in any war, would be essential towards that end.
Entire nation, government machineries, all agencies, business houses, the media, civil society, IOs, NGOs, general public must be integrated in the plan. The continuum of package solutions may be phased into short term actions to contain the virus and minimize its effects, mid-term measures to restore normalcy, long term goals to boost economy and development. By far, it is a tall and daunting task.
But we are brave and tenacious nation that stunned the world back 1971 by defeating a strong occupation army with trivial resources. We have been fighting incessantly against all challenges ever since too. In all cases, we triumphed valiantly leading to the current unprecedented advancement in economic and social fields. Surely, the context, the threat, the time, the space and nature are so different; any comparison or analogy might ostensibly seem fallacy. But one overriding common factor in both cases is the question of our existence – the survival and freedom.
Historically, we never hesitated to stake everything for protecting them. Our forefathers and we did it in 1971, certainly, we have to do the same again right now against Covid–19 and defeat it
Major General (retd) Abul Kalam Mohammad Humayun Kabir is the Former General Officer Commanding Army Division and ARTDOC (Army’s Think Tank), Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the UNEP and UN-HABITAT and Elected Vice Chairman of the UN-HABITAT’s CPR, Vice Chancellor and Chairman of Army’s Business Conglomerate SKS