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The Global Cacophony of COVID-19

It is disgusting, disappointing and disorganized to the level of befitting anybody’s big frown. If it were an international music festival, the appropriate theme would be: “The Global cacophony of COVID-19.”

More than one year ago the World Health Organization Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the COVID-19 global pandemic. Subsequent instances that surrounded the incident led me to ask, through this very Politurco platform, whether the pandemic would tear global systems apart. Apparently, this is what looks like it.

Although the logical response to the outbreak is immediate vaccine development, this has turned out to be a multi-hit race for political, social, economic, scientific and even mora and conflict medals. On the ground, the virus is real just as the disease and deaths. But human response has been lacking in what we could also term as COVID—19 symphony.

As the word goes, the origin of the virus was an issue. China was blamed for not only being the origin but also not being transparent. Russian scientists claimed that it was manmade by U.S. scientists in a Chinese lab. French medical scientists jumped on the wagon suggesting immediate vaccine research with tests hinged on Africans. This attracted so much opposition to Africans being used as guinea pigs that an apology had to be made but without expressing commensurate concern.

The vaccine race started. It was more of who would make it first in the market rather than real concern for human life. Multinationals rubbed shoulders in the WHO corridors at Geneva to the extent that at one time U.S. was at the head of a strategic design to discredit Dr. Tedro’s performance.

The U.S. administration’s response to the pandemic was so diverse that a few of us would doubt if this did not contribute to Donald Trump ending up being a one-term U.S. president.

Globally WHO guidelines were received and implemented with an assortment of disparities. Africa mostly turned to Mother Nature. The Madagascar formula will go down in the history of COVID-19 records. Many African countries, including Tanzania, followed suit, producing their own blends on top of making Madagascar imports.

Lockdowns were adopted in European, U.S. and European cities as those in leading African economies went in for partial lockdowns.  Within the East African Community (EACC) region Burundi and Tanzania responses were at variance with those of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Tanzanians were encouraged to live and work as usual. Tests were abandoned after planted animal and plant samples were declared positive.

The divergent approaches in the region had negative effects on regional trade, sometimes threatening to bring neighbors to the brink of armed conflict. It was a story of private leaders’ beliefs turning into public actions. A deputy health minister lost his post just as executives at a medical research facility got demoted. Irrespective of official denial to the existence of COVID-19, the Tanzania Episcopal Conference called on the believers to adhere to WHO guidelines.

Tanzania’s ambassador to Israel was recalled for taking a jab. A member of the European Parliament once retorted: “The European Union granted 27 million Euros of Europeans’ tax payers’ money to Tanzania to combat the effects of COVID. Now we have a regime that is saying that there is no COVID…” He wondered how this grant was being put to use.

So when the WHO chief called on Tanzania to get ready for receiving COVID-19 vaccines the situation was very fluid. Would the country receive the vaccines? Zambia, Tanzania’s neighbor, had made it clear that vaccines could only be applied after verifying their efficacy. South Africa had put the vaccinations on halt following a new variant of the virus. Tanzania health minister came out with the same stand.

Steadfast on the COVID-19 vaccinations, India had inoculated six million people in less than a month and was looking forward to cross a 300 million mark by August, this year. The India story is one of “no complacency” while doctors and scientists urge people to avoid mass gatherings, crowded areas and continue using face masks and the hand hygiene good practice. Cuba looked set to test own vaccine as Queenslanders in Australia were set to receive the Pfizer vaccine following the Federal Government confirmations of the arrival of “the most precious cargo…”

Despite the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization and its vaccine-specific use recommendations circumstances surrounding global COVID-19 are frustrating due to disorganized distribution and uncertainty over how well the vaccines can protect man against new variants. It is against this that one can look at the most recent joint message sent to the world by the UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore and the WHO DG, Dr. Tedros, towards the second week of February.

Out of the 128 million vaccine doses administered by then more than two-thirds were justly in countries that account for 60% of global GDP. Almost 130 countries with 2.5 billion people were yet to administer a single dose.  They rightly termed this a “self-defeating “strategy that will cost lives and livelihoods, give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade vaccines and undermine global economy recovery.

Again they rightly called on world leaders to look beyond their borders and employ a vaccine strategy that can actually end the pandemic and limit variants.

Global vaccine rollouts are expected to have started in the first three months of 2021. To achieve this, we have the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator in place and its vaccines pillar COVAX is fully funded. Digging further one learns that this exercise could return up to US$166 for every dollar invested. What a colossal profit? But whose profit? How can we explain investor morals in this revelation? Making one hundred and sixty-six dollars from one? How selfish and inconsiderate about others and inconsiderate can man be?

As Pope Francis hade chance to say,  “therefore to come out of this crisis better than before, we must do so together, all of us, in solidarity. Together, not alone. Common good, not greed, must motivate search for vaccine.” But what is the world situation like?  Again the Pope’s own words: “We see partisan interests emerging. Some people (are) taking advantage of the situation to instigate divisions by seeking economic or political advantages and generating or exacerbating conflict.”

Examples of what the pope had to say abound. There a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theories branding vaccines as unsafe, posing dangers of altering human DNA and causing infertility. There have been authoritarian governments that have taken advantage of COVID-19 to further their selfish aims. Among them is Turkey.  As world governments were being called upon to release political and conscience prisoners to decongest prisons, turkey enacted a Trojan Amnesty law that discriminated against inmates held on links with Fethullah Gulen.

To have a delivering address to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs some kind of symphony. Not the current cacophony.  

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.


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