Heritage City of Ahmedabad’s response during Covid-19 disaster during 2020 was a result of historical socio-economic realities and recurrence of a similar outbreak would lead to comparable consequences if these underlying vulnerabilities were not addressed, a UN report on Disaster Risk Reduction said.
“Contemporary ways of understanding and assessing risk often consider the status quo and rarely look into how risk in systems has been shaped over a period of time. For example, in the context of Covid-19 in the old city of Ahmedabad, the percentages of population residing in a one-room household or with more than five people living in a household appeared to be dominant factors in the spread of the disease. This is the result of historical socioeconomic realities. Thus, recurrence of a similar outbreak would lead to comparable consequences if these underlying vulnerabilities were not addressed,” the UN Disaster Risk Reduction report released late Tuesday night at New York said.
The Global Assessment Report (GAR2022) was released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) ahead of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in May.
“An important takeaway for policymakers in this regard is to investigate such contemporary and historical causes of social and economic vulnerabilities, so they can be addressed through integration of risk reduction within contexts that perpetuate vulnerability and generate risk,” the report said.
In the old city of Ahmedabad, the initial experience of Covid-19 impacts provided important lessons for later government approaches, demonstrating that in a poor socioeconomic area, people did not have the financial and food resources to comply with restrictions on movement in the absence of social protection measures, it said.
The case study as part of the report is based on interviews with residents of the old city of Ahmedabad where they revealed their perception of the risk from Covid-19 was overshadowed by financial concerns during restricted movement regulations between March and June 2020.
As happened in rest of India, the nationwide lockdown and enforced closures had directly affected livelihoods and the education sector in the old city. “Low income levels and patterns of livelihoods meant most people did not have savings to sustain them over a long period of almost no income,” the report pointed out.
Depending on the response, there were four main observations, all of which have been reported by Indian media.
First was that the higher-income households first had better access to health-care systems compared with lower-income households but as the case numbers grew, the load on existing health-care facilities and systems also grew, affecting them and leading to more cases and more deaths.
With schools shifting online, access to education was reduced for households with lower financial resources with a likely future impact on earning capacity.
The social cohesion – a systemic capacity – which has been found to be deep rooted in the old city, surfaced as a saviour when the stresses on the availability or access to food and other basic necessities were met by different volunteer groups and special initiatives of the local government like Vegetables on Wheels, but mostly people relied on each other, inter and intra-community associations (“pols”) for support, for finances and basic necessities.
The last observation was that as the transmission of the virus increased, leading to a surge in cases, it eventually led to the closure of Kalupur vegetable market, the largest fresh vegetable market of the city but made it more difficult for people in the old city and other parts of Ahmedabad to access sufficient fresh food.