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On 11th March 2020, Novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak was declared Pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO). World over, COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded changes, which were never seen before, responses to it have also brought about complexity in the socio-economic fabric. Worldwide, quarantining, working from home, social distancing, extreme amount of personal hygiene become the New normal, and has been adversely affecting, lives of human being, small businesses, farmers, and daily-wage earners. In Asia Pacific Japan region, countries like Japan, Korea and South East Asia, besides China have been severely impacted. In India, the 21-day lockdown imposed by the Government of India as a precautionary measure against the spreading of COVID-19 has brought out new challenges.

With public transportation as well avenues of earning money shutting down literally overnight, migrant, daily laborers are compelled to journey back to their villages on foot, some dying on the way. The healthcare system is struggling to treat the rising number of COVID-19 patients, and many thousands of people are going hungry. In fact, the impact of the pandemic will be four-fold on India’s socio-economic condition – it will create a burden on healthcare facilities;  it will cause an economic slowdown; hunger and starvation will be widespread; and, many Indian youth will lose career opportunities that they could have otherwise explored.

Bringing our Purpose & Vision to Action

The unprecedented situation like COVID-19 demands extra-ordinary efforts and collaborative approaches. SAP has always been at the forefront to bring our thought leadership and resources to help our communities and partners. It is crucial that SAP and our partners hold one another in the time of crisis like this.

SAP’s efforts are mainly two-fold (1) Augmenting the public health system (2) ensure that there is no economic opportunity loss

  • We are ensuring to our partners that taking care on our people and their families is the priority. SAP would ensure that no contract workers lose their job and they receive their salaries. This would ensure that their family’s livelihood is not disrupted. For example, the Code Unnati Initiative in India employs around 3,000+ teachers, team leaders and master trainers. SAP has committed to their well being during COVID-19 crisis. No one will lose their livelihood

  • Globally, SAP established EUR 3 MN COVID-19 Emergency Fund and enhances support to social sector partners:

  • In Japan, we would work with NPO Operations Blessing Japan (OBJ). SAP Japan CSR and OBJ will supply the masks and produce disinfectants, which will be provided to the needy institutions. These institutions will include hospitals, clinics, homes for the elderly, handicapped service agencies, mentally handicapped service agencies, day care centers, nursing homes, home care nursing service agencies, orphanages, kindergartens, and child care centers, in mainly 7 prefectures: (a) Chiba (b) Fukuoka (c) Hyogo (d) Kanagawa (e) Osaka (f) Tokyo (g) Saitama. The Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Abe declared the state of emergency in the 4 prefectures, on 7th April 2020.

  • Medical equipment, anti-contamination clothing and face masks are the requirement in South Korea. SAP Korea partners with Red Cross Korea to provide support.

Collaboration and the significant role the private sector can play

In crisis, the private sector plays significant role. Governments and Administrations across the world explore the collaboration. At SAP, we strive to help the world run better and improve people’s lives consistently, and more specifically under calamitous circumstances and pandemic situation like COVID-19.

I believe that there 3 key interventions needed in India beyond preventive measures

  • Strengthen the Public Health System: Work closely with public hospitals who provides treatment to the affected people. Help the public health workers and paramedics with necessary medical equipment viz., Ventilators, PPE, N95 masks, gloves, etc. SAP India has undertaken the following measures to equip people to combat COVID-19 with UNDP and NASSCOM Foundation. At the time of writing this, there is no medication or vaccine available for the treatment of COVID-19. It poses even graver challenges to contain the morbidity and plausible mortality. The Prevention is the Only Cure.

  • Safety and care of geriatrics population, who is especially vulnerable to the mortality under COVID-19

  • Addressing imminent crisis of hunger and avoiding deaths due to starvation. Due to massive number of daily wage earners and migrant laborer rendered job less, they are not able to get daily meal. Providing micro-nutrient rich food to such people is our priority

Following should be our priority especially in India

  1. Augmenting Public Health System:

  • Reports state that there is one government doctor for every 10,189 people in India, while WHO recommends a doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000. The nurse-patient proportion is 1:483, implying a shortage of two million nurses. With an abysmally low number of ventilators, many people face the danger of dying without treatment against the virus.

  • SAP and UNDP have partnered to collaborate with AIIMS and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to assist hospitals. We are procuring indigenous, low-cost, high-quality ventilators which will be distributed to district hospitals in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and NCR region. Through, Tele-ICU, medical doctors and paramedical staff are being trained to operate these machines. With new knowledge and improved competencies, it is our hope that these members of staff will continue to use the ventilators in times of need even after the crisis dies.

  • Since elderly people are at higher risk of the disease, SAP has also partnered with HelpAge India to render support to the elderly in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru – the initiative involves providing one month’s worth of dry ration and COVID-19 testing support to beneficiaries.

  1. No hunger:

    • Millions are going hungry. Daily-wage earners and contractors are losing jobs, and farmers’ yield is rotting because they are unable to either harvest or to sell harvested crops in markets. In a country where poverty is already stark, quarantine seems to be a luxury that is dealing a heavy blow to the poor. We have joined hands with Rise Against Hunger to provide two meals a day to daily-wage earners and other people made vulnerable by the pandemic in Karnataka, Maharashtra and NCR. This apart, we have donated our entire dry food inventory to Need Based Action, an NGO, who has distributed it to 400 children across different areas of Bengaluru. Our kitchens have been opened – we are cooking for migrant laborer stranded in Bengaluru, till April 14.

  2. Enabling youth for Economic Opportunity:

    • India being the youngest country, the demographic requirement to enable / retain the meaningful economic opportunity is the priority in this challenging time. Private sector can plan an enabling role here. With examinations cancelled and bleak job prospects, the economy is taking an indirect hit. But more than ever, it is underserved youth who depend on NGOs and private-sector initiatives for skilling who are impacted the most. For instance, our programme, Code Unnati runs 1500 centres, all of which are now closed. While we have worked closely with our nonprofit partners to alleviate their fears, we also understand the need to keep the momentum of education going. Learning must not stop – and, definitely not for children for whom educational resources are scarce. So, our partnership with Head Held High sees 60 SAP volunteers mentoring youth over phone on various topics, such as health, communication, and job readiness. This initiative will run for 30 days.

These are painfully disruptive times.  None of us has experienced such a complete standstill before, when life seems truly uncertain. While worldwide governments, scientists, medical professionals, organizations viz., WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, etc. are striving to address the multi-fold challenge, develop the vaccine or treatment, or ensuring the no hunger or economic distress, as an individual, as a corporate all of us have to play an enabling role in this challenging time.