"Any way the wind blows" - Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
Of course, I would have liked to write a sharp blog on the current health crisis and Africa. However, at the moment little is known about the virus and in particular about how present it is and what the long-term impact on African health systems and economies could be. However, the amount of confirmed cases is increasing, there is a lot to be worried about. The stress the virus has caused to health systems in rich countries such as Italy or Spain mean that a full outbreak in a developing country would potentially be disastrous. And the impact on a population facing other challenges (e.g. malnutrition, HIV, malaria, etc.…) is hard to predict. The economic impact – with collapse of demand from China for natural resources and the fall in the price of oil – is set to be massive as well.
On a personal note, from a position of privilege compared to most of the local population, we have had to decide weather to return to Europe or stay in Niamey as the borders of Niger (and the EU) close and most airlines are stopping flights around the world. With so many variables (For how long are the border closures and flight suspensions? Will there be an outbreak here and what will impact be? How will the outbreak progress in Europe?) and the range of things to consider (e.g. other health risks here – in particular for children, security concerns, etc.…) it is practically impossible to make a reasoned decision. In any case, we have decided to stay.
Once again, the question is if the world will learn from this crisis. As a recent commentary in the Lancet has put it: “The COVID-19 outbreak is yet another reminder of the necessity of intensified and sustained commitment to global public health preparedness. The world does not need more evidence of the health, social, economic, environmental, and other problems that arise when we fail to invest adequately in global health security. What is required to break this panic-then-forget cycle is to follow through on prioritising, funding, and implementing preparedness interventions.” Even within the EU collective coordination and support of the emergency response has been challenging (let alone overall and forward-looking policies when the pressure will be less). Responses to 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis and global (lack of) give little reason to be optimistic. Once again, we are in this together though…
19.03.2020, Niamey, Niger.
Online encampment of A. S. Barry. Disparate and not-so-disparate thoughts on international relations, development, writing, and life.