Practical Lessons From the Pandemic: Listen, Act and Change

April 27, 2021

By Angela Nguku, Founder and Executive Director, White Ribbon Alliance Kenya

The Covid-19 pandemic is still here with us, wreaking havoc among populations and amongst all sectors globally. The effects have been felt, are still being felt, and will be felt for generations to come. Indeed, the world at large has been confronted with the true uncertainty of human existence and the vulnerability of human life. 

The pandemic has tested everyone, from global bodies, to the wealthier and poorer nations and communities at large. It has left in its wake hard lessons that each and everyone will need to take considerable efforts to learn, rethink and strategize going forward.

Global health security has been tested with the existing global health inequities and inequalities exposed for everyone to see. The pandemic has indeed echoed the critical interdependence and the co-existence of each and every person on this planet; further exposing the realities within the global health landscape, that diseases know no borders, and that we cannot fight disease in isolation. This calls for a rethinking of how global health is organized, funded, and delivered. In addition, the virus has taught us that global health cannot be delivered in siloed approaches or from merely a health lens. Additionally, the pandemic has reiterated that primary health care still remains the best buy if we are to fight the ever-emerging double disease burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.

This realization forces us to think beyond our existing schools of global health architecture, forcing us to ask ourselves vital questions and confront our glaring biases in the way global health is delivered. It pushes us to be realistic in how we plan to rebuild our health systems -from the current top-down to a more bottom-up approach that has everyone and every sector on the table. It calls us to ensure that every player, including the health service users are empowered so that they too can contribute to the fulfillment of their roles through deliberate health literacy efforts for them to change their health-seeking behaviors. 

The pandemic has further highlighted the need to ensure that there is global health accountability from all quarters to ensure that global health investments deliver what they are intended to. From global health investors to national governments to communities, accountability must be upheld. There have been uproars across many countries including my own country where investments intended for the pandemic fight have been diverted or abused; this aspect cannot be overlooked as we build back better. How global health funding is delivered to national governments up to the communities needs strict monitoring and accountability. This cannot be realized if communities are not at the heart of its delivery through deliberate funding towards holding their local and national governments accountable. 

What this then means is that we must all pause and listen. Listen with the intent of responding to these challenges and lessons rather than listening to respond within our usual silos. Listen to all those involved and affected, listen until the last mile is heard, Listen, act and change what needs to be changed. This way, we will be creating a more equitable, prosperous, secure, inclusive, and sustainable world.