Corona This Corona That - Let's talk Africa.

Monday, April 06, 2020

It’s now day I don’t even know of quarantine and although it has proved difficult in many instances all I can say is I’m thankful that I am well. Not many people will or have been able to say that and if you’ve been directly impacted by the coronavirus, I pray that you are comforted beyond my own words can – may God be with us all. 

I thought in light of the newest discourse surrounding COVID-19 I would share my thoughts about what I think about the latest comments made by Jean-Paul Mira in the past week. To give some context to those who don’t know what I’m referring to, a tv debate was held between two French doctors discussing the ongoing discussions on trials as planned and proposed to occur in Europe and Australia – for the use of the tuberculosis vaccine and its effectiveness against COVID-19. Dr Mira then went on to suggest “shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?” comparing this to some studies done on AIDS through sex workers due to their high exposure and lack of protection. This was then acknowledged by the other doctor who then states that “we are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa” – with that already about to begin in other continents. 

Even if the doctors claim that their intention was not to suggest Africa should be used as a ‘testing lab’ – it appears to mirror past patterns in relation to our views of racial standing and also the ever growing issue of corruption and greed within African leadership. Looking at the history of Africa, more specifically to the slave trade, slaves were routinely sold to doctors as subjects of experimentation and essentially made to be medical resources – due to their easy accessibility. These slaves were essentially commodities, the research carried out on them as documented by these doctors was entirely gruesome in many instances– depicting an image of racial inferiority. Translating this in the present, even with the suggestion by Dr Mira’s later statement that “Africa must not be forgotten or excluded from research because the pandemic is global” the issue remains of whether the extent of testing will differ to that in the West. Typically, the global south has been treated with an underlying notion of lack of understanding – therefore allowing for taking advantage of. However, without appearing to be acting as devil’s advocate should we encourage for equal trials to occur both in the West and global south? BCG is almost a century old vaccine and has been seen to be a discovery that has saved many lives, particularly in developing states, so if proposed should we support equal testing if this is at all realistic?

Greed has and continues to go hand in hand with African leaders, causing a lack of progression in terms of growth both socially and economically. The DRC has been said to be in talks to allow for the testing of alternative coronavirus vaccines for a sum of almost $50 million. If anything, this in itself just highlights the lengths African leaders would go to further their pockets – a phenomena in itself is African leaders and their obsession with money yet lack of progression. However, I’ve researched into this and found instead that the UN wrote a piece on the battle the DRC has with current Ebola outbreak and a measles and cholera epidemic in the last year alone. The arrival of Covid-19 poses a diversion of focus and stress on their already weakened healthcare system. The World Bank has approved $47 million in financing the emergency response to Coronavirus in the DRC – so that brings to question where talks of testing came from? The money has been set to provide immediate support to contain the virus in a state which is already confronted by so many health issues. 

If anything, during this period I’m learning more than ever to read more – particularly on things I do not have prior knowledge of. Twitter really has become a space for keyboard warriors to become the fakest doctors and scientists about, which is ultimately feeding in the already developing fears surrounding the virus. Stay clued up and don’t take your Mums WhatsApp forwards seriously – or I promise you’ll go mad. 


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