The pandemic of COVID-19 has turned the world upside-down during which, the global death toll has reached 503,862 as of June 2020, according to the Situation Report – 162 (World Health Organization, 2020). It has worsened global inequalities and undermined international movements in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hence, the world should take into account the One Health approach, a collaborative action coined during the SARS pandemic unifying the welfare of humans, animals, and the environment in the national and global policy.

Constituting 16% of the global population (UN ECOSOC, 2019), youth has to face severe consequences owing to the pandemic. Thus, it is logical to consider the role of young people in promoting and advancing the One Health approach.

Why One Health Matters?

In the past few decades, the increasing cases of environmental degradation and wildlife exploitation, such as illegal trading and bushmeat consumption, are commensurate with the aftermath caused by the zoonoses, including SARS, Ebola, MERS and COVID-19. In 2015, WHO found that in the past few decades, the diseases were accounted for 61% of human pathogens and 75% of emerging pathogens (WHO, 2015).

The One Health approach seeks to mitigate the zoonotic outbreak by safeguarding people, animals, and ecosystems in two manners. First, the movement stipulates that wildlife health, human wellbeing and flourishing environment are interconnected. Thus, any potential disconnection of the bond may pose an adverse impact on all entities. Massive, unsustainable economic practices, such as deforestation, unethical mining, wildlife exploitation, agriculture and human overpopulation, have harvested the dissemination of pestilent diseases to humans. Yellow fever is the paragon of how large-scale deforestation occurred during the establishment of the Panama Canal in 1888 by the Spanish colonist interfered with natural equilibrium, leading to the death of 22,000 workers. Before the construction, the diseases only infected primates living in the jungle canopy. Moreover, maltreatment of animals, particularly of livestock, has fertilized the propagation of infectious zoonoses (Benatar, 2020). In a nutshell, the way we nurture animals could affect the entire colonies. Ensuring biodiversity is thus not only ethical but is also essential to prevent the pandemic. Second, the One Health concept requires a multidisciplinary approach following the SDGs (goal 17). It provides a platform in which stakeholders from various backgrounds can not only learn best-practices but also cooperate in mobilizing their resources towards prevention.

Youth contribution

The pandemic has deteriorated sustained issues, such as the youth unemployment rate which was accounted for threefold higher than those for adults (ILO, 2020). However, youth can serve a critical role to maintain the One Health approach in the community. Given its robust population, young people need to be consistently in charge of fostering a lifestyle that is low-carbon and free of animal cruelty. Carrying on with these behaviours may, in turn, ignite more significant initiatives from wider communities and policymakers, and thus driving business sectors to adopt a more sustainable supply chain. Such an incremental cycle of lifestyle is the building block of one health approach, which seeks to uphold the future well-being of all creatures.

Finally, the human-centric approach alone is insufficient to future proof humanity of a pandemic, and neither can the government be sole problem solvers. Protecting the future of humankind requires not only a holistic view incorporating the complete ecosystem throughout the process but also a whole endeavor among stakeholders across all age groups. All of which is imbued in the One Health approach.

Article by

Rochmy Hamdani Akbar

Mirda Sylvia

Africa-Asia Youth Foundation, Indonesia chapter.

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