African leadership shares China's health vision

By Mark Kapchanga Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/20 20:36:09

Medical supplies donated by China are unloaded from a plane at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Zimbabwe, on May 11, 2020. A Chinese medical team arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday to assist the southern African country's efforts in the fight against COVID-19. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuliang)


For several months now, the world has been engulfed in perhaps one of the worst crisis in recent times. No one knows how long it will take before our lives go back to normalcy. 

But as it is, it may never be back to normal again because the novel coronavirus pandemic has redefined our ways of doing things. Crucially, it has reminded us, as human beings, how we are supposed to relate with each other. 

Going by the scale of the outbreak, it is certain the magnitude of its destruction will be huge unless properly handled. In the long-run, it will exert more pressure on healthcare systems. It will deepen inequality and exclusion around the globe. 

Appreciating the danger and uncertainties that lurk ahead of us, particularly for most of us from the developing world, it is encouraging to see China assume a guiding position in the World Health Assembly (WHA) to chart a path for the world to counter the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In his virtual address to the Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated China's commitments to turning the tide of the deadly virus, and to map out the extra miles it has taken to support and assist those in need in other countries.

Encouragingly, he told the WHA that he was extending a further $2 billion in donations to curb the novel coronavirus in addition to dispatching healthcare experts and medical supplies to the developing world, especially Africa. This is much more than the international humanitarian aid the US has given to the vulnerable during the pandemic.

China's steps in containing the disease, which starkly contrasts the road taken by US President Donald Trump. The US president, besides cutting off American funding to WHO in April, continues to showcase his incomprehension on COVID-19, devoting most of his time to blaming China.

As the whole world keenly followed the WHO proceedings and deliberations about the best way out of the novel coronavirus mess, Trump turned to theatrics, telling journalists at the White House that he was taking hydroxychloroquine to keep the coronavirus away. 

The spectacle did not end there. Trump took to Twitter and shared a four-page long letter that he wrote to the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noting that the letter is "self-explanatory."

As has been the norm with him during this COVID-19 outbreak, Trump pointed a finger at WHO for so-called supporting and siding with China during the crisis, especially as the epidemic developed in the US. In the letter, he said the global health body, "failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government's official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself."

His escapist letter concluded by saying that, "the only way forward for the WHO is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China" or he will permanently end funding.

Whether Trump's threats hold water or not, he is morally wrong. To most African leaders, this is not the time to censure anyone. This is an extraordinary time that calls for extra-ordinary strategies to tackle this extraordinary challenge that threats to tear the world apart.

Without a doubt, a fractured world will expose millions of lives to the adverse effects of the disease. Leaders have a public duty to join hands, and work for the better of the people they serve, especially during a crisis like this. 

We will be defeated if we get divided. It is no wonder that the WHO noted that the world needs to unleash the full power of science, to deliver innovations that are scalable, usable, and benefit everyone, everywhere - all at the same time during this extraordinary era.

Instead of Trump continually aiming his sword at the WHO and China, he must work jointly with Xi and other leaders in supporting researchers to develop vaccines, medicines and other technologies in the shortest time possible that will help combat COVID-19 and other diseases in future.

The author is a researcher and expert on China-Africa cooperation based in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow him on Twitter @kapchanga.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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