Inside Africa’s fourth wave of the pandemic and vaccine equity
“We are all in this together” ~WHO director general, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
But are we really?
As rich countries vaccinate their populations, dispose of out dated bottles, and some people even declining the vaccine, in poorer countries, where the virus is spreading — maybe we aren’t in this together?
According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 fatalities have surged by 80% in Africa in the last month.
The WHO attributes this to the more contagious Delta variant, spreading rapidly across the continent, making it impossible for healthcare systems to keep up. This, along with the shockingly low vaccination rate, has culminated in a grim reality for people throughout Africa.
While 29.7% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Africa’s population of nearly 1.4 billion people accounts for only 1.9%, according to www.ourworldindata.org.
Lagos based Minister and Founding Pastor of The Baptizing Church network, Dele Osumakinde, suggests that the true state of things with regards to the third and the fourth wave on the continent is complex.
“An average man on the streets in Africa does not even believe there is a pandemic. There is also the social economic side to this pandemic. People got interest free loans here in the UK to mitigate the effect of the pandemic. Africa is quite different, it is largely an open market economy, and unlike some other parts of the world where governments made welfare provisions available to those negatively affected so they can stay safe at home.”
As Africa struggles to attain enough vaccines for their people, other countries are already securing booster shots. DFS Africa, a global advisory committee, published an article highlighting this discrepancy. Research analyst, Bakani Ncube, stated:
“When few countries receive the majority of the product supply, the pandemic is prolonged, resulting in the ongoing disruption of the world economy, battered supply chains, and weaker demand.”
But Bankole Eniola, DFS Africa’s director of technology and product innovation says that the imbalance in vaccinations around the world should not be blamed on ‘rich countries.’
“When your house is on fire, no matter how much you to love your child, If you don’t douse the fire on yourself, you cannot save your child. Think about it like a plane that is about to nose dive, the announcement will be like, put on your own life jacket before you try to help your neighbour.”
Eniola agrees that the COVID-19 response in Africa should be a humanitarian effort:
“…the challenges of our generation must never be looked at as a third world challenge. It is a human challenge. And wherever these challenges arise, we must address it collectively as humanity.”
The global COVAX vaccination program accounts for 70% of the COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.
Eniola says the program proves rich countries are helping developing countries, but political leaders of the latter are first of all responsible to their electorates:
“There is also the concept of ‘politics of response.’ Even if you are the richest country around, if the people in your own home think you are misappropriating their resources, you might not be given a second chance to run for political office. Therefore, the politics of response means at any given time, that a man or a woman has been given the position to make decisions by the mandate of the people, he must always look at the people to get the kind of vibe, body language, or morality to do things.”
The African continent from the beginning of the pandemic till date continues to report the lowest cases of confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths compared to other parts of the world.
Africans were left without much option but to continue their survival on the streets, hence the continual spread of the virus.”
Vaccine hesitancy and compliance of safety protocols are part of the major issues that African governments are contending with in the fight against the COVID-19.
Pastor Dele, unlike Bankole, believes a combination of both global and local solutions would have a better chance of reaching the African people.
“We have seen now that variants are coming from different parts of the world. So, why can’t we put in place local solutions to deal with those local variants so that they don’t spread?”
With over one billion vaccines already on the African continent and amid stories of tonnes of expired vaccines sent to landfills across the U.S., this recent largesse might just be too late to curb the surge and the effect of the deadly Delta virus.
At the genesis of the pandemic, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres said, ‘We are all in this Together: Human Rights and COVID-19 Response and Recovery’ warned:
“#COVID19 is a public health emergency — that is fast becoming a human rights crisis. People — and their rights — must be front and centre.”
That warning might have been the most logical and ethical approach. Statistics show that vaccine manufacturing on the African continent stood at less than 1%. And the purchasing power of most low-income countries today is at a negative.
In a similar address to the UN, also at the onset of the pandemic, scientists at the WHO through its Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus agreed that: ‘A Human Rights response approach is key to winning the battle against the COVID-19’
“All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights”.
As the world hopes that these are the very last days of the pandemic, one lesson seems louder than any other, “Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Jesus’ words seem to capture the whole essence of the ‘catch-phrase,’ we are all in this together.