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How can CSR Funds Help Build the Rural Health Infrastructure in India for COVID and Beyond?

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that despite several policies oriented towards rural growth and development, the widening socio-economic disparities have posed a huge challenge for the critical health care sector, especially in the rural areas. A study by National Health Profile–2019 observed that there are only 0.55 hospital beds in government hospitals per 1000 population. This is an alarming figure and with 70% of India’s population still living in the rural areas, it is extremely vital to work towards building a robust and sustainable critical health infrastructure, apart from government intervention various non-government bodies and corporates must take note to address this crucial problem.
In the last decade, India has seen rapid evolution and involvement from various corporates with many initiatives contributing towards nation building but building the health infrastructure is one aspect where there is a lot of scope for improvement and the pandemic is a testament to that. When it comes to hospital bed availability, ‘Human Development Report’ published in 2020 ranks India 155th out of 167 countries. Covid-19 has set the stage for companies to relook at their CSR initiatives and work effectively to build a long-term roadmap in terms of a robust critical health infrastructure that can benefit rural India not just during the subsequent waves of Covid-19 but also beyond that. This will enable us to not only have better sustainable healthcare machinery but also meet the UN’s SDG Goals of 2030.
Following are some of the aspects where corporates can help in building the rural health infrastructure of India.

1. Building Critical Units of the Healthcare Machinery

The 2nd wave of Covid-19 showed us the importance of well-equipped hospital beds, ICU and oxygen units, ventilators, something that most of us had taken for granted till then. The Human Development Report also states that as many as 50 per cent and 30 per cent of beds in the public and the private sector were non-functional as of 2010. This is an alarming figure and needs to be addressed. Apart from government and hospitals, corporates can help by allocating funds and tying up with various NGOs in setting up ICUs that are crucial for India’s rural health infrastructure. As the figures state, there is a huge dearth of such critical units especially in rural India and it is a great opportunity to address this issue and work towards scaling up the healthcare machinery in rural India.

2. Providing support to existing infrastructure

Building something from scratch is a long-term affair and to cover entire rural India with proper healthcare infrastructure is no mean feat. CSR funds can also help in uplifting the existing infrastructure of various hospitals by providing adequate machinery and manpower. This process can be achieved much faster compared to building an entire mechanism in place and we all know time is of the utmost importance in combating the impending third wave.

3. Supporting staff and making them better trained and equipped

We have earlier witnessed instances of patients having to travel to metropolitan cities from rural areas due to a lack of trained staff. Corporates can allocate their CSR funds in supporting healthcare workers in making them better equipped to handle any kind of crisis. This will in turn not put unwanted stress on the urban healthcare machinery and save multiple lives by cutting down travel time for patients and their relatives.
Despite all the losses it’s best to look at the pandemic as an opportunity for corporates to rethink and realign their CSR spends and invest in one of the most important aspects of our lives – critical healthcare. This should be a long-term commitment even after we have been able to win over Covid-19 as we have much bigger goals to fulfill and meet.
Maanoj Shah_Co-Founder Mission ICUMaanoj Shah is a Chartered Accountant, a People Champion with strong Business creation, strategy and scaling-up experience. Apart from co-founding Mission ICU, he has played a key role in many social initiatives like Khaana Chahiye (Volunteer management), Co founder Corona Champions (Covid awareness initiative) & Giftchange (A platform for changemakers).

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.