COVID-19 response in Africa is confirming that many in the continent do not receive humanitarian aid as life-saving assistance. Perhaps this is good news as it may reduce the unprecedented high level of dependency on international humanitarian presence in the continent.
This perception was manifested recently by the impounding of a humanitarian aid plane in Nigeria on May 18. Nigeria impounded the British aircraft for allegedly flouting a ban incoming commercial flights as a measure to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Nigeria’s Aviation Minister said the plane, operated by FlairJet, although allowed to fly humanitarian aid nevertheless contravened the ban that had been imposed on almost all passenger flights. Describing Flairjet’s action as callous, he said the crew was being questioned and maximum penalties could follow.
What is interesting about this event is that humanitarian aid has always been promoted and justified across Africa an intervention to save lives. Given recent media reports that hunger looms across West Africa especially Nigeria with the impact of COVID 19, one would expect the Nigerian authorities to relax its laws to allow `life saving’ measures as the arrival of a humanitarian flight. But the Government of Nigeria does not think so.
While humanitarian aid and presence which is predominant across Africa has been justified as life-saving measures, many African leaders and western allies have raised the alarm that protracted humanitarian presence across Africa is driven by perverse incentives as well as fostering dependency. Such presence, many Western-based think tanks have argued, is expanding not so much by urgent and increasing lifesaving needs, but to sustain a global humanitarian industry. The fact that international humanitarian presence has been rationalized and justified under very alarming predictions about the continent has been a ban of contention for many Africans, with serious implications for the continent’s image and reputation.
Many African countries have allowed international humanitarian aid in the form of international humanitarian presence and footprints to exist in their countries for decades. Up to 70 percent of the countries appealing for annual humanitarian aid are from Africa and these countries have been doing so annually by default for decades.
International Humanitarian assistance designed to provide short term assistance in the context of sudden-onset disasters, is being misapplied across many countries in Africa.
The global impact of COVID 19 pandemic should help African leaders adjust their realities of what Africa should expect from depending on humanitarian assistance from the West. The current reality of our COVID 19 world is that the countries Africa usually, and has been appealing to for humanitarian aid are now besieged by COVID 19, and are more affected than Africa.
But this reality may not have sunk in yet for the continent and those in the business of predicting crises for fundraising in and for the continent. Alongside speculation of why COVID 19 impact has not been widespread, and fears that it might, are ongoing dire predictions of other potential crises.
As recent as April 20, dire warnings about the impact of locust swarms on food security in East Africa continued. According to a report by Reuter’s ‘The second wave of desert locusts is threatening east Africa with estimates that it will be 20 times worse than the plague that descended two months ago.’ In April, the UK’s Guardian reported that hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming through parts of East Africa. The report highlighted this threat as the worst infestation for a quarter of a century, threatening crops and livelihoods.
Dire predictions of the impact of COVID 19 on food security in West Africa have also been made. More than 43 million people are predicted to likely be in urgent need of food assistance in West Africa in the coming months. This figure is predicted to double as these same sources are projecting that the Covid-19 outbreak will accelerate across at least 47 countries in the continent. According to the World Food Programme Food insecurity, this year could affect as much as 265 million people across West Africa, where the UN body is projecting that the outbreak of the virus will be most severe.
Some parts of Africa have also reported the potential impacts of flooding. Reports in early May notes that floods and rock slides is devastating western Uganda with villagers who have lost everything sheltering in makeshift camps with limited food.
The United States, the major food aid donor, is currently one of the countries most affected by COVID 19. If West Africa is facing threats of hunger from COVID 19, America is facing its own looming food crisis that could affect over 30 million of its population. Perhaps what could be an outcome and a lesson learned from the COVID global pandemic is that Africa starts establishing its own Africa Food Programme. Such a food programme would source for material food aid locally which would increase and improve food security in the continent and not undermine it as has been the case with current food aid interventions.
East Africa should have come up with regional solutions for addressing locust swarms by now, the region has been announcing this threat since early 2019. The threat of locust swarms predates the COVID 19 pandemic in East Africa, certainly, a regional solution is in the works.
The world is besieged by COVID 19 right now, the impact of locust swarm is East Africa is not going to be a priority for the West. We may circulate images of Africans running amidst circles of locusts as much as we want, it will not generate much reaction at this time. Images of the United States burying its citizens in mass graves is a more compelling humanitarian story.
Floods and droughts are recurring hazards in many countries in Africa. These hazards have a significant impact on populations, but it reflects more of a gap in recovery than a humanitarian crisis. Recurring hazards like drought and floods impact the food security of vulnerable populations due to failures on recovery from prior drought or flood hazards, and lack of sustainable interventions.
As well as prioritizing funds and aid to save the lives of its citizens, the West, will be focused on helping its economies recover from the economic impact of COVID 19 for a long time.
Bottom line, my dear and fellow Africans, we must stop waiting for aid and solutions from the West. It would be really and truly embarrassing for the continent to continue to hold out begging bowls to countries in the west who can barely stand from the ravages of COVID -19.
This is the time for African countries to disallow dire predictions about the impact of COVID-19 on the continent unless such narratives are premised on solutions from the continent. What we need are Africans taking charge of the communication on the impact of COVID-19 on the continent. Tanzania is leading in this posture. The country on May 19 announced that there has been a "sharp decline" in the number of coronavirus patients in Tanzania's hospitals, the president said, four days after the US embassy in the country reported that many hospitals had been "overwhelmed".
We are also glad that Nigeria is taking national actions and initiatives in the response to COVID 19 in Nigeria. According to BBC's Nduka Orjinmo and Mansur Abubakar. ‘Powerful politicians in northern Nigeria are pushing for the scrapping of controversial Koranic schools after some pupils found themselves at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
Africa has been comfortable with a pattern of announcing its challenges to the world and waiting for handouts and solutions. Sadly, alerts of potential crises in Africa is an industry, an economy, and the employer of the largest global workforce today.
Steaming under the radar of the COVID 19 pandemic, and the quest for response, is the controversy regarding Africa’s Madagascar claim that it has discovered a COVID organics (CVO), a herbal drink that is said to prevent and cure patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.
Madagascar has reported 171 coronavirus infections and 105 recoveries to date, with no deaths. According to Madagascar,’ The patients who have healed have taken no other product than Covid-Organics," some African countries are already ordering the herbal remedy. Madagascar has a long history of traditional medicine
The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, and the African Union has expressed willingness to collaborate with Madagascar for facilitate clinical testing. WHO is advising the government of Madagascar to take this product through a clinical trial” but was “willing to collaborate with them”. But there is silence from the rest of the world.
Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina defended his promotion of the controversial homegrown remedy for Covid-19 despite an absence of clinical trials. "It works really well," he said of the herbal drink Covid-Organics.
I will like to state upfront that this posting is not a verification of the effectiveness of COVID 19 organics, but I am speaking out regarding global dismissiveness regarding it potential effectiveness. I stand with Madagascar’s President, Rajoelina claim that if a European country had discovered the remedy, people would not be so skeptical. I fully echo his question "What is the problem with Covid-Organics, really? Could it be that this product comes from Africa? Could it be that it's not OK for a country like Madagascar, which is the 63rd poorest country in the world... to have come up with (this formula) that can help save the world?" asked Rajoelina, who claims the infusion cures patients within ten days. Rajoelina has also reminded the world that many pharmaceutical drugs authorized in the West have turned out to be harmful.
Rajoelina’s call to fellow Africans that international organizations have been created to facilitate the exploitation of Africa is valid. He says that international organizations have been created to keep Africa dependent on the West.
We must stop waiting for Western institutions to validate our resources.
When we say validated by clinical testing, whose clinical testing and what should be the proof of that validation.
With a prediction by the World Health Organization that nearly a quarter of a billion people across 47 African countries will catch coronavirus over the next year, although due to the young population in the continent, the fatalities will remain less than that of Europe or North America, I am excited about the potential of COVID Organics.
I can understand the hesitancy from the West, health care is big business for the West. If big pharmaceutical companies in the West are not clear on how they can profit from a cure, they will not endorse it.
When multilateral and international organization scream dire predictions on Africa they do so to get funding from Western donors. When solutions come from Africa it would kill humanitarian and development businesses in the West, and for African gatekeepers for Africa’s exploitation.
Bottom line, Africa and Africans must stop waiting for approval from the West. The South must stop waiting for solutions from the North. It is good to note that many African countries are requesting for COVID organics. This is one time it makes sense not to err on the side of caution. It will not be the first-time solutions for the world is coming from Africa. This time we will be watching closely. Let’s see how the world will adopt COVID organics ingredients without due credit to its source: Africa.