A "perfect storm" is wreaking havoc worldwide and it’s even more devastating for people living in poverty. Edinburgh-based international healthcare charity, EMMS International, is sounding the alarm about a growing global healthcare crisis which is unfolding as a result of this storm. Conflict, cost of living, climate change and coronavirus are bearing down on resource-poor countries and putting decades of development progress at risk. This is exacerbated by cuts to UK government aid which should have mitigated the damage of these crises.
Cost of Living and Conflict
The cost of living crisis is a global one. No corner of the world was immune to the financial shock from the pandemic, and this is exacerbated by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The impact of the war on charities’ efforts to deal with a range of pressing global concerns pales beside the experience of those living through it. Yet the war in Ukraine demands UK citizens’ sympathy and donations, and so they have less to give to the causes that other charities support. Add to this that the public is made poorer by rising inflation and the increased cost of living.
In the countries where we work, normal demand for a reduced supply of commodities, such as grains and fuel, means that food and medicines are more expensive, and this increases the need for international support.
COVID-19 looms large again and news of winter preparations reminds us that this pandemic is far from over. As the pandemic struck, EMMS International started new projects to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Malawi, India and Nepal. This included improving water supplies at health facilities to reduce COVID-19 infections and boosting hospitals’ oxygen supplies to treat patients.
But pre-existing challenges didn’t disappear - poor infrastructure, a global shortage of healthcare workers and the burden of disease still loomed large. Duncan Hospital in Bihar in India had hoped to expand its training of nurses. Instead, building of the new college halted when almost all the hospital’s staff and their families contracted COVID-19.
Climate change is not a new crisis for any of us. We all bear the brunt of excessive emissions of greenhouse gases and the destruction of forests and wetlands.
Serious climate change has been evident for years in many countries, in floods, droughts, storms, heatwaves, reduced crop yields, increased poverty and increased disease and injury. The World Health Organisation suggests that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
Government Aid Cuts
A year on from the cut in the UK aid budget, the impact is still being felt in the work of charities and the lives of those whom they seek to serve. Then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak slashed aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5%, undermining the UK’s commitment to global health, vulnerable women and girls and other vital programmes worldwide.
Cuts also meant delays in projects starting. EMMS International resisted the cut, which affected its pioneering palliative care project in Nepal, because the people it should have helped in 2021 quite simply are no longer alive by the time the delayed project finally started in 2022. But the UK government was immovable, and so families went through their pain and trauma without newly developed services which are now beginning to bring pain relief, home-based care, trained health workers and the start of evidence to help the Nepali government decide how best to develop these services.
Help Weather the Storm Together
EMMS International has launched a special appeal calling on supporters and the public at large to help thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people and ensure we weather this storm together.
Dr. Cathy Ratcliff, Chief Executive of EMMS International and Board Chair of Scotland’s International Development Alliance, explains:
“The world is changing in just about every arena. COVID-19, the climate crisis and conflict in Europe tell us all that the world is inter-connected and illustrate what happens when society doesn’t act on early warning signs. “EMMS International is grateful for the generosity of its supporters through recent global challenges. All the same, last year we had to use reserves to help our partners through this crisis and this isn’t sustainable. We need to step up together. We’re asking everyone to stand together with us in support of those whose stories do not hit the headlines, but who are feeling the growing impact of this perfect storm of conflict, cost of living, climate change and coronavirus.”