Losing out on prioritisation

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: February 14, 2019 21:29:47

Prioritisation may be a necessary evil for countries with limited resources such as Bangladesh. In itself the rules governing priorities fall prey to the tug of war between a list of almost impossible promises and providing that which is enshrined in the constitution. Matters are further exacerbated by corruption, mismanagement and simple bad management. The three factors are prevalent in every country though some have, through the test of time, come out better than others.

And so the world can afford $ 515 billion in diamond purchases and the luxury of a week's ban on the famous betting pastime of horse racing in the UK due to the fear of Equine flu, a potential health hazard.

In the current term of the Awami League government the beginnings have been good and sober, the latest being a hard line taken on food safety. Unfortunately, food safety is an area that requires resources that may not be within the limits of what we have. Raids on posh restaurants may make good headlines but only scratch the surface. Mobile courts and such aren't questioning the roving vendors snaking their way through traffic clog-ups about the quality and sourcing of their food offering that have significant consumption. Street vendors selling food items aren't questioned about ingredients and additives and the most popular roadside restaurants never have their kitchens inspected. It's all about a lack of manpower and worse the fact that the headlines are likely to go against the drive for targeting poorer section trying to make a livelihood.

But statistics have shown that the number of gastro-intestinal diseases from consuming such food and water not only continue to rise but drain much needed resources, both man and money, that are grossly needed for more complicated diseases. Pharmaceutical companies might have a different view related to the bottom line but a sick population's lack of productivity must outweigh profits not to mention play havoc with longevity figures.

Health is one of the most important constitutional obligations the state owes its population but corruption, mismanagement and lack of control on food sourcing is forcing larger numbers to travel to neighbouring countries for treatment. Previously it was India, Bangkok and Singapore but now Malaysia and China have joined the bandwagon either for cheaper or sophisticated and expensive treatment. There have been many ridiculing the Anti-Corruption commission's findings on the absence of doctors at hospitals and health complexes. That's not the case in the countries offering treatment abroad. Indeed, through unseen and unknown ways the presence of their doctors in Bangladesh are proudly displayed through newspaper advertisements. So when the Prime Minister came down hard asking for absentee doctors to be made Officers on Special Duty (essentially without a job) it signalled strong resolve. Even stronger would have been an announcement firing them except that we don't have enough physicians per 100 patients.

If monitoring physicians and their absence from work (it shouldn't be given every institution has someone in charge) is difficult, the food safety monitoring is even more daunting. Unless local body institutions are strengthened and remain above board in integrity it's a lost case. The same goes for monitoring of cattle and poultry. The fattening exercise doesn't just happen just before Eid and there is the seamless connect of the medicine industry in supply of the fattening elements. It all goes full circle but giving up can't be an option. And when it comes to other forms of prioritisation it does sound a bit flat.



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