#Editorial

Decolonising Covid-19!

May 5, 2020, 1:56 PM

When WHO added Disease X to its R&D Blueprint in 2018, the reality of an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic was just beyond the limits of the imagination.

2 years later, at the time of writing this Editorial -the beginning of April, 2020 - over 1 million people around the world have been infected with COVID-19 virus and 80 000 people have died from the disease. One-third of the world’s population is in lockdown. As the world’s most advanced economies struggle to repurpose state and private sector capacity to meet the growing demands on health services, the spotlight is shifting to countries without formal social safety nets or the massive monetary injections needed to bolster their economies.

COVID-19 is yet to establish a firm foothold in low-income nations, but African countries are already feeling the economic impact of the stall in global demand for oil, gas, and commodity products. UNDP has estimated income losses of US$220 billion in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) and that nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost. This, combined with the potential health impact, could be catastrophic. A Comment published in The Lancet Global Health in April found that a rapid acceleration in the number of cases in west Africa, as has been seen in Europe, could quickly overwhelm vulnerable health systems that typically have fewer than five hospital beds per 10 000 population. UNDP has called on the international community to pool resources to not only support the public health response but also to prevent economic collapse in the poorest countries. Similarly, the African Development Bank has appealed for a globally coordinated fiscal stimulus. The UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, expressed her disappointment at the global response with a reminder that, “If one of us has the virus – all of us have it.”

But with many borders closed and wealthy nations increasingly looking inwards, we are reminded of the asymmetrical power structures that still dominate the largely high-income-country concept of global health and development, and the dangers of the poorest countries being left in the dark as traditional powers shift their focus to the overwhelming problems at home. “The global health model is based in large part on technical assistance and capacity building by the US, the UK, and other rich countries, whose response has been sclerotic and delayed at best”, wrote Sarah Dalglish in a letter to The Lancet in March. Criticising the established notion of global health expertise being concentrated in legacy powers and historically rich states, she laments that “relatively little has been heard from African veterans of the Ebola epidemics in west and central Africa”.

The scientific community has fervently responded to the call for a treatment for COVID-19, with the first results of Gilead’s experimental antiviral, remdesivir, due to be released this month. However, in the rush to register trials—over 300 so far—a sinister undercurrent has re-emerged. At the beginning of April, two French doctors sparked an intense backlash over comments made during a live television discussion about COVID-19 trials in Europe and Australia by saying that the studies should be done in Africa first “where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation”, reasoning that certain studies on AIDS had been carried out in prostitutes “because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves”.

A guest editorial

Read Other Articles In Editorial
Good Morning Mr. President: Need for continuity in the civil service 
Jun 8, 2020, 10:49 AM

Mr. President, if we want to have effective productivity in civil service, we must have continuity in the system.

Stop land grab!
May 28, 2020, 12:34 PM

Land conflicts are becoming a major problem in The Gambia. With even a small plot of land in the Kombos and other urban centres commanding exorbitant prices, land grab has become a lucrative business venture.

Another market inferno!
May 13, 2020, 12:46 PM

A serious inferno on Tuesday morning engulfed parts of Brikama Market destroying several stalls.

Alarm as covid-19 set to almost double acute hunger by end of 2020
May 22, 2020, 11:52 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic will see more than a quarter of a billion people suffering acute hunger by the end of the year, according to new figures from the World Food Programme (WFP).

Impact of COVID-19 in Africa
Jun 16, 2020, 11:12 AM

It is too early to know the full impact of COVID-19 on Africa. To date the experience has been varied. There are causes for concern, but also reasons for hope.

Ensuring food security in the era of Covid-19!
Apr 15, 2020, 2:37 PM

COVID-19 has been slowly creeping into our communities. As we seek to ensure our families’ health and safety, to many people, food has never seemed so important, both as a source of nutrition and, for many, of comfort. The question is whether, as economic disruption continues, we can stave off a pandemic-related food crisis.

Shunning coronavirus vaccine cannot become normal action
Jun 11, 2020, 11:29 AM

If only there were a vaccine, we’d really be getting somewhere. But without effective, widely available protection from COVID-19, normal life will be at least somewhat on hold.