A group of four motivated youth representing from Sustainability Week Kathmandu, Thought for Food (TFF), Child Development Society and symposium on SDGs have launched a weekly webinar. The main aim of such weekly sessions is to inspire the youth to contribute in possible areas of SDGs as per their expertise and interest. Furthermore, this session is vital to bring together experts from various walks of life to share their learning and way forward. Additionally, it can sensitize different stakeholders towards their roles to achieve SDGs amidst the global crisis of COVID-19.
During those series of webinars, the subject experts and professionals from various backgrounds are brought to the same platform where they answer questions from the organizers. The questions are formulated based on the responses that are received through registration forms circulated beforehand.
The first episode was launched on 7th May 2020 titled “Impact of COVID 19 on goal number 3”. The speakers were from diverse walks of life, all but related with their work in the contribution of sustainable development goal number 3. The 6 speakers were 2 clinical nurses Ms.Binita Kutu and Ms. Sumnima Bhusal working in the government hospital of Nepal , Prof. Dr. Sujan Babu Marahata(Ph.D in tropical medicine), Ms. Abha Sharma ,PhD student and public health professionals Ms. Amrita Pahadi (Nursing Officer,DoHS) and Mr.Sanjiv Kumar from governmental and non-governmental organizations respectively.
The session was conducted through Skype and live via our official facebook pages, moderated by Insh Pun( Health and Nutrition In-charge at Child development society) with formal opening by Ashish Lamichhane (Program head, Sustainable Week Kathmandu). The program was formally closed by Ghanshyam Bhattarai(Country Ambassador, Thought For Food) with the summarization of the session presented by Barsha Raut (Public Health scholar, Sustainable Week Kathmandu). Throughout the session the team worked closely to maintain the smooth facilitation by minimizing the technical errors and responding to live questions put forth by the participants.
The 50 participants who shared the live platform with the speakers were selected based on their responses at the registration form circulated beforehand. Other interested participants (100+ viewers) had joined us live on our Facebook pages.They were actively engaged in the webinar via chat and comments throughout the session.
The ideas that the speakers presented on that day can guide and direct the youth who wish to engage meaningfully in the achievement of SDGs. Meanwhile, it can be equally informative for all the stakeholders who are relentlessly working to achieve SDGs despite the national crisis. The below mentioned points are the consolidated ideas presented by the subject experts.
1.The clinical nurses at the webinar outlined that the current pandemic has brought a shift in health care needs. This has ever connected the health departments. As a result, health workers are recognized as one among the most important leaders and advocates. Besides rigorous work schedule, shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and potential threat to contract COVID-19, health workers tend to be very positive towards their assigned duty. Furthermore, during this crisis nurses and midwives are playing an integral part as frontline workers.
2. While addressing the question on how health care workers are practically contributing towards the achievement of goal number 3, the clinical nurse outlined that since the health care workers provide primary level of care to patients, they feel that they are holistically contributing towards goal 3. For instance, they play an important role in achieving many targets of SDG 3, most notable ones are reducing maternal mortality ratio (MMR), child mortality rate (CMR), and also reducing the national burden of other epidemics as HIV AIDS, TB, malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases
3.One of the major suggestions by the clinical nurses was that the general public should abide with the notices and instructions by the government and WHO. This is because health care workers alone cannot control the current situation, and that they need a collective effort especially from the youth.
4.The public health expert highlighted that COVID-19 is indeed an opportunity to build up strength. There is a need to revitalize our entire public health system, also focusing necessary changes in tourism, education and other sectors. There is also a need for capacity building, need for inoculating science at the population level. He further added the three major approaches to systematically fight the infectious diseases now and in future are social, medical and public health. There is a greater need for change in behavioural aspects. The speaker also stressed on the importance of youth engagement in research and innovation to combat occurence of current and future infectious diseases.
- He also stressed that youth are the great resource of the country, he followed that the existence and sustainability of any initiative in a country lies in the younger generation’s hands. He concluded by highlighting the three major areas where youth can directly engage in, as per their interest:
- To understand the epidemic, and keep oneself updated. To refrain from engaging in spreading online misinformation, and misconceptions. He requested the youth to first research the credibility of the news and disseminate only those information which are given by the credible resources.
- He stated that youth can play a role as an advocator in their immediate community. they can be engaged in meaningful roles from policy to ground level. He welcomed the emergence of youth leaders and encouraged social accountability and responsibility in youth.
- The youth can be mobilized for awareness sessions, discouraging the community taboos and wrong practices, educating their community for long term purposes. Disseminating information about other infectious diseases common in Nepal such as Malaria, TB, dengue etc.
5. The public health professionals from governmental and non-governmental organization highlighted that since all the resources are directed towards addressing the COVID 19, other health services are largely affected. However, other emergency health services remain open and functional. Besides the increased effort of the government and consistent decrease in Maternal Mortality Rate so far, COVID -19 is creating a potential threat in the achievement of the 2030 A.D target. COVID-19 pandemic itself is threatening the entire national health indicators. However, the government is adopting alternative approaches to address health needs through Online follow up sessions (telemedicine) and focusing on increasing supply of commodities. Government is actively collecting baseline information about other outbreaks alongside COVID-19. And they concluded that the youth can contribute to aforementioned initiatives.
6. A suggestive conclusion was made that in order to avoid other public health problems and probable outbreaks, routine immunization should be resumed with coordination and guidelines provided by MOHP. Meanwhile, the local youth can be meaningfully engaged in awareness campaigns to ensure high coverage and low drop out of immunization.
7.The PhD student highlighted that with the increase of COVID 19 cases and nationwide lockdown, other health issues are on the rise like anxiety, stress, irritation among the people. Therefore, the recommendation for improving mental health was to practice mindfulness, following relaxation techniques and focusing to live in the presence. Moreover, the speaker highlighted mental health as an important area of research for university level students and youth in general.
At the latter half of the session, the floor was made open for the participant’s questions. The major question was posed to public health experts regarding the availability of vaccines against COVID 19 for common Nepali citizens. He answered by saying that global attempts are being made to develop vaccines, however the availability cannot be expected within the summer of 2022 to common Nepali citizens. He further added by saying that the primary solution to defeat COVID-19 is physical distancing, following the updated advice of experts and supporting government decisions.
The initiation of this weekly webinar received many encouraging remarks from the speakers and the participants at skype as well. One of the remarks at the skype stated “Wonderful initiative! Very fulfilling and a learning opportunity indeed”, while few others were looking forward to attending subsequent sessions by the organizing team. Likewise, the team also received feedback for improvement for instance to choose another reliable platform for webinar such as zoom and microsoft team. Few comments from participants were related to the limited time of the webinar which did not allow for posing questions to the speakers.
The organizing team has considered all these feedbacks and is working sincerely to keep up with the positive ones and is improving on other grounds to make the subsequent sessions more interactive and to limit the technical issues.