Reports from the Western bloc suggest that the ramping up of the health service, costing millions of dollars, was readily signed off by the respective governments in Britain, the United States, Germany and France with scarcely a second thought. In their view, and with humanity imperilled as never in recent centuries, this is emergency public spending, after all.
A not dissimilar initiative is now direly imperative for almost chronically impoverished sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and swathes of the Middle East ~ volatile regions even in normal times. This could well be the curtain raiser to this week’s G20 summit, if the jaw-jaw at the high table is to be fruitful. Life and livelihoods have ceased to be rhetorical effusions of ministerial concern. Both are twin threats in the continent of Africa with a decrepit healthcare system. Without significant and immediate assistance from the global community, the consequences could be catastrophic.
More accurately, the tragedy in Africa has no less tragically been overshadowed by the burgeoning deaths and afflictions in the United States and Spain, for instance. Unprecedented is the challenge to the poor. As Africa cries out for debt relief and massive economic support, the link between the Group of 20 and public health was never so pronounced. With its awefully limited resources, the continent is coping with both health and economic emergencies. The World Health Organization has warned that Africa may soon face “a huge peak” in coronavirus infections. Yemen, where the health system has very nearly collapsed in the war since 2015, announced its first case last Friday.
In many of the countries now bracing for the worst, limited access to clean water and cramped communal living conditions will hamper the battle against coronavirus. There is an acute shortage of testing equipment and ventilators. In locked-down rural economies, food supply is ever so uncertain. To that can be added the global fall in commodity prices. This has hit sub-Saharan Africa hard, slowing exports and depriving the countries of vital hard currency. Capital flight to the dollar, as investors seek a safe haven during the crisis, has further exposed fragile economies.
The World Bank has predicted the region’s first recession for 25 years. No, this isn’t the foreboding of the Jeremiah when one reflects on the study conducted by the United Nations. It has estimated that measures taken to combat the pandemic could nullify 30 years of progress in the fight against poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa showcase a hideous cocktail of an economic blight and a human catastrophe. The enormity of the tragedy has deepened with the absence of global leadership.
History will judge the more prosperous nations harshly if they fail to act decisively to help the world’s poor. Ranting at WHO and China, in the manner of Donald Trump, will not take the world very far. Least of all Africa.