Pandemic Vijay Prashad

Great Disorder and Extravagant Lies

For an agenda of compassion that gives hope in the possibilities of a world not rooted in private profit, Vijay Prashad turns to the public-health program of Kerala, India.
Francisca Lita Sáez, Spain, “An Unequal Fight,” 2020.

By Vijay Prashad / Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

These are deeply upsetting times. The Covid-19 global pandemic had the potential to bring people together, to strengthen global institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and to galvanize new faith in public action.

Our vast social wealth could have been pledged to improve public health systems, including both the surveillance of outbreaks of illness and the development of medical systems to treat people during these outbreaks. Not so.

Studies by the WHO have shown us that health care spending by governments in poorer nations has been relatively flat during the pandemic, while out-of-pocket private expenditure on health care continues to rise.

Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, many governments have responded with exceptional budget allocations. However, across the board from richer to the poorer nations, the health sector received only “a fairly small portion” while the bulk of the spending was used to bail out multinational corporations and banks and provide social relief for the population.

In 2020, the pandemic cost the global gross domestic product an estimated $4 trillion. Meanwhile, according to the WHO, the “needed funding … to ensure epidemic preparedness is estimated to be approximately $150 billion per year.”

In other words, an annual expenditure of $150 billion could likely prevent the next pandemic along with its multi-trillion-dollar economic bill and incalculable suffering. But this kind of social investment is simply not in the cards these days. That’s part of what makes our times so upsetting.

On May 5, the WHO released its findings on the excess deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the 24-month period of 2020 and 2021, the WHO estimated the pandemic’s death toll to be 14.9 million. A third of these deaths (4.7 million) are said to have been in India; this is 10 times the official figure released by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has disputed the WHO’s figures.

One would have thought that these staggering numbers – nearly 15 million dead globally in the two-year period – would be sufficient to strengthen the will to rebuild depleted public health systems. Not so.

According to a study on global health financing, development assistance for health increased by 35.7 percent between 2019 and 2020. 

This amounts to $13.7 billion in development health assistance, far short of the projected $33 billion to $62 billion required to address the pandemic.

In line with the global pattern, while development-health-assistance funding during the pandemic went towards Covid-19 projects, various key health sectors saw their funds decrease (malaria by 2.2 percent, HIV/AIDS by 3.4 percent, tuberculosis by 5.5 percent, reproductive and maternal health by 6.8 percent). 

The expenditure on Covid-19 also had some striking geographical disparities, with the Caribbean and Latin America receiving only 5.2 percent of development-health-assistance funding despite experiencing 28.7 percent of reported global Covid-19 deaths.

While the Indian government is preoccupied with disputing the Covid-19 death toll with the WHO, the government of Kerala – led by the Left Democratic Front – has focused on using any and every means to enhance the public health sector.

Kerala, with a population of almost 35 million, regularly leads in the country’s health indicators among India’s 28 states.

Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government has been able to handle the pandemic because of its robust public investment in health care facilities, the public action led by vibrant social movements that are connected to the government and policies of social inclusion that have minimized the hierarchies of caste and patriarchy that otherwise isolate social minorities from public institutions.

In 2016, when the Left Democratic Front took over state leadership, it began to enhance the depleted public health system. Mission Aardram (“Compassion”), started in 2017, was intended to improve public health care, including emergency departments and trauma units and draw more people away from the expensive private health sector to public systems.

The government rooted Mission Aardram in the structures of local self-government so that the entire health care system could be decentralized and more closely attuned to the needs of communities.

For example, the mission developed a close relationship with the various cooperatives, such as Kudumbashree, a 4.5-million-member women’s anti-poverty program.

Due to the revitalized public health care system, Kerala’s population has begun to turn away from the private sector in favor of these government facilities, whose use increased from 28 percent in the 1980s to 70 percent in 2021 as a result.

As part of Mission Aardram, the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala created Family Health Centres across the state. The government has now established post-Covid clinics at these centers to diagnose and treat people who are suffering from long-term Covid-19-related health problems. 

These clinics have been created despite little support from the central government in New Delhi. 

A number of Kerala’s public health and research institutes have provided breakthroughs in our understanding of communicable diseases and helped develop new medicines to treat them, including the Institute for Advanced Virology, the International Ayurveda Research Institute, and the research centers in biotechnology and pharmaceutical medicines at the Bio360 Life Sciences Park.

All of this is precisely the agenda of compassion that gives us hope in the possibilities of a world that is not rooted in private profit but in social good.

In November 2021, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research worked alongside 26 research institutes to develop “A Plan to Save the Planet.” The plan has many sections, each of which emerged out of deep study and analysis. One of the key sections is on health, with 13 clear policy proposals:

  1. Advance the cause of a people’s vaccine for Covid-19 and for future diseases.
    2. Remove patent controls on essential medicines and facilitate the transfer of both medical science and technology to developing countries.
    3. De-commodify, develop and increase investment in robust public health systems.
    4. Develop the public sector’s pharmaceutical production, particularly in developing countries.
    5. Form a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Health Threats.
    6. Support and strengthen the role health workers’ unions play at the workplace and in the economy.
    7. Ensure that people from underprivileged backgrounds and rural areas are trained as doctors.
    8. Broaden medical solidarity, including through the World Health Organization and health platforms associated with regional bodies.
    9. Mobilize campaigns and actions that protect and expand reproductive and sexual rights.
    10. Levy a health tax on large corporations that produce beverages and foods that are widely recognized by international health organizations to be harmful to children and to public health in general (such as those that lead to obesity or other chronic diseases).
    11. Curb the promotional activities and advertising expenditures of pharmaceutical corporations.
    12. Build a network of accessible, publicly funded diagnostic centers and strictly regulate the prescription and prices of diagnostic tests.
    13. Provide psychological therapy as part of public health systems.

If even half of these policy proposals were to be enacted, the world would be less dangerous and more compassionate.

Take point No. 6 as a reference. During the early months of the pandemic, it became normal to talk about the need to support “essential workers,” including health care workers (our dossier from June 2020, “Health Is a Political Choice,” made the case for these workers).

All those banged pots went silent soon thereafter and health care workers found themselves with low pay and poor working conditions. When these health care workers went on strike – from the United States to Kenya – that support simply did not materialize.

If health care workers had a say in their own workplaces and in the formation of health policy, our societies would be less prone to repeated healthcare calamities.

There’s a Roque Dalton poem from 1968 about headaches and socialism that gives us a taste of what it will take to save the planet:

It is beautiful to be a communist,
even if it gives you many headaches.

The communists’ headache
is presumed to be historical; that is to say,
that it does not yield to painkillers,
but only to the realisation of paradise on earth.
That’s the way it is.

Under capitalism, we get a headache
and our heads are torn off.
In the revolution’s struggle, the head is a time-bomb.

In socialist construction,
we plan for the headache
which does not make it scarce, but quite the contrary.
Communism will be, among other things,
an aspirin the size of the sun.

Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, journalist and commentator, is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of Left Word Books.

7 comments

  1. It is the jab death toll that counts and it will likely continue to rise.
    The alleged covid death tolls are a fraud to cover up the
    Deadly jab death tolls.
    Wake up…the WHO/CDC statistics are entirely FRAUDULENT!

    1. Terence Bennett — you are 100% CORRECT.

      This article by Vijay may have a few good points about the public health sector in Kerala, however it is very poor of him to write about the WHO and not state their Huge Genocidal Crimes of Knowingly and Deliberately Pushing Toxic mRNA Vaccines onto the planet.

      I find it hard to believe Vijay cannot be awake to the Huge Crimes of the Global Rothschilds Banking Cabal.

  2. Thank you for this illuminating report! Heartening to learn that somewhere on earth there are motivated people with sufficient cohesion to make such a difference in true health care.
    That it’s possible given the vision, the passion and persistent efforts to make it so. This is a keeper for future reference and use to bolster much healthier health care than the for corporate profit over humanity strangled health care available in the vaunted “most powerful” (but least healthy?) country on earth, the USA. Compassion! Indeed!

  3. $150 billion is of course outrageous, and the WHO is the last organization to trust with health support– no wait, the CDC is. The main Covid expenditures in the US were for genetic drugs labeled “vaccines” which were useless and are causing more deaths as we speak. The CDC and the NIAID blocked hospitals from reliable inexpensive drugs for the disease, and the government paid the hospitals enormous sums for declaring deaths Covid-caused. Hence the almost complete disappearance of the seasonal flu from the country. Try reading the “Great Barrington Declaration” authored by scientists from MIT and Stanford University for an opposite view of the problem.

  4. I’ve got a communist headache after reading this PR puff for oligarchic control from another left authoritarian (and another NGO bought and paid for by philanthrocapitalists?). “If health care workers had a say in their own workplaces and in the formation of health policy, our societies would be less prone to repeated healthcare calamities,” this power-to-the-people piece pretends. If for real, there’d be no popular advertising for, only opposition to, the WHO and its crimes against humanity, aka ‘the people’.

    The WHO complements interlocking imperialist rule like the WTO, BIS, UN…institutionalized power points for transnational capitalist class elites to leverage the global rule they, differences and conflicts notwithstanding, have worked to extend for at least a century since WW1. Particularly since WW2, and then the past half century of neoliberal warfare and its global governance (‘globalization’) by debt bondage and scorched-earth theft (‘privatization’) of the commons, via such infamous imperial centers as the IMF and World Bank and its jackals (see Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman) – what used to be protested at global summits by anti-capitalists.

    The WHO is one of those private-public organizations so loved by corporate state fascists, in this case running a public front for privatization of human health, down to our genes, as with the experimental RNA/DNA injection, still being pushed without informed consent in violation of the Nuremberg Code by the Pharmafia at the WHO, now set to roll out more absolutized International Health Regulations to override national sovereignty, beyond what nation-states have already done to destroy popular sovereignty.

    Of course, as obligatory across platforms of progressive police state policy formation, the storyline here is that we the people must insure these known kill shots reach the exploited and expendable at the margins of empire, who already are suffering genocidal conditions from economic warfare of lockdowns and continuing supply-chain crises so as to double down on depopulation.

    Operating behind GAVI as well so magnanimously through the BMGF, the WHO’s biggest charitable shareholder is Bill Gates, eugenicist extraordinaire who’s out to install a biodigital virus in us lab rats by the back door of ‘vaccination’. This undeclared dictator over both body and mind of the species has a track record in India alone which rivals Nazi experimentation upon untermenschen.

    I gotta stop. My communist headache’s now become nausea over all the many extravagant lies perpetrated here by this popular front for imposing great disorder of disaster capitalism, crucially initiated by the WHO with the covid coup, to march us along to the great reset. I’ve got to go vomit up yet another gross betrayal of the people and our welfare by those who make alibis for tyrants.

  5. “Plan to Save the Planet”? What a joke! This is a plan to save humans and their unnatural lifestyles, not the planet. No mention of the current human-caused extinction crisis, no mention of ocean acidification — which is at least as big of a problem as global warming/climate change, quite possibly a bigger problem — no mention of human overpopulation, the biggest physical problem on the planet, because it is one of the twin physical roots of all environmental and ecological problems on Earth, because it’s so bad that nonhumans have almost nowhere to live, and because it’s the leading cause of the biggest ecological problems such as the extinction crisis.

    A real plan to save the planet would begin with addressing human overpopulation by educating & empowering girls and women, and with a strong global one-child-family policy. The former is what Kerala did, and by doing that it went from having the highest birthrate in India to having the lowest (2 per family, which is still too high because we need to lower human population, not just stabilize it, but much better than the rest of India). It would next address lowering materialistic lifestyles, starting with the richest among us, but would include all people. It would not aspire to have everyone become materially wealthy like Americans, but would instead propose that everyone learn to focus on being instead of having, to paraphrase a movie character.

    I really hate it when leftists try to hijack environmental issues like this. If you’re a human supremacist, at least be honest and say so. Humans are exponentially far from being the only ones living on Earth, but people like Vijay Prashad and the members of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research obviously think and act like they are. The biggest victims on Earth right now are not humans, they are the Earth and all the nonhuman naturally evolved life here. Humans are thriving, it’s the other species that are in trouble BECAUSE OF HUMANS and need help.

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