Africa and the Coronavirus pandemic: A blessing in disguise for some

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For several months governments across the globe have been working tirelessly to contain the Coronavirus pandemic, a crisis which has brought the entire world to a standstill.  To reduce the risk of transmission, countries have been urging their citizens to embrace the directives issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). Some of the measures in place are, wearing of masks in public places, keeping social distancing, regular washing of the hands and sanitizing of the hands using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The dreaded deadly disease has spread over a wide geographical area with 213 nations and territories reported to be affected by it. This is according to the information published by the world Covid-19 tracker, Worldometer, an American reference website that brings to attention real-time statistics for diverse topics. However, a handful of countries has not reported any cases. They include Samoa, North Korea, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Others are Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Turkmenistan and Solomon Island. Very few people believe that a country like North Korea has not recorded any case of the Coronavirus, talk less a death, especially, given the proximity of North Korea to China, the birthplace of the deadly virus. Having in mind the secretive nature and political realities of most of the above-mentioned countries, one wonders whether the countries are austere with the truth as far as the virus infection and death are concerned.  

The novel virus has caused untold miseries ranging from the deaths of loved ones, the collapse of the economy and it has plunged the global health into a deep valley.

Normalcy has hardly returned in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the novel the Coronavirus outbreak began late last year. Its residents will live to remember the consequences they have undergone during the crisis. It will take time for them to forget all troubles they went through during the 77 days of the lockdown of the city and the loss of their loved ones when the menace struck.

But the tragedy, losses and pandemonium from the pandemic are not limited to China. Nearly half of the global workforce has been affected by the crisis with those employed in the informal sector being the main victims. Millions of enterprises have been shut down and companies have either reduced their workforce or sent all the workers home.  The International Labour Organization had hinted that job losses may worsen if the infection persists. The Coronavirus pandemic calls for international cooperation, collaboration and unity more than ever, to defeat the deadly virus. Doctors, nurses, virologists worldwide have displayed an amiable degree of kindness and professionalism, by offering their services, expertise where ever they are needed globally. Cuba has sent their highly experienced doctors and emergency medical team to Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and Africa to aid with the virus response.

More than 20 countries have received help from Cuba across the globe, according to reports published in The Nation.   Some of them are Italy, South Africa, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Jamaica and Haiti.

Despite the hardship associated with the COVID-19, some have viewed the virus as a blessing in disguise.  Like in some African countries, movement in South Africa has been restricted and public gatherings of more than 100 people banned by President Cyril Ramaphosa as measures to contain the virus. Restriction of movement has interfered with the attendance of the funerals in the Sub-Saharan country, meaning only family members has the permission to attend such events. In Nigeria, virtually no burial was permitted during the early months of the virus outbreak. Presently, burial can only be allowed amongst close family members only of the deceased without elaborate ceremonies. In Africa, where burial could render families poorer due to the excessive expenses involved, even though the new COVID-19 burial order has inconvenienced the public, it has worked to the advantage of the bereaved families. It saves unnecessary costs.

The lockdown saw a reduction in funeral expenses as most families are now excluding caskets, caterings, tents, fancy cars etc. from their list. A survey conducted by Sanlam in 2018 showed burying a loved one in the African country is very expensive. The cost of a funeral is determined by the requirements the deceased noted in his or her will, according to the research. Others undertake the expenses because they believe it a cultural norm, regardless of the family’s financial muscle. A family has to cater for flowers, food, a headstone, a burial plot, a graveside tent, programmes for the service, preparation and storage of the body, a funeral notice in the newspaper, and registration of death and travel costs.

Initially, an ordinary family could spend as higher as $8,850 but now some use less than $118 thanks to the Covid-19 as per the report published by the Independent Online.

Elsewhere, while the faces of frustrated people can easily be spotted in Kenya due to economic constraints, in their midst, are an ecstatic group of people known as the petty offenders, who welcome the COVID-19 wholeheartedly. In a bid to decongest the prisons to curtail the virus infection, Kenya’s National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) released inmates serving petty offences following multi-agency consultations.

The council in early April resolved to release 4,800 prisoners and two weeks later granted 4,500 others freedom of movement. Wasn’t this a new dawn to those inmates who had been behind the bars for months? The virus availed them an opportunity to reunite with their families and loved ones, thus amid all cries and gnashing of teeth, they have something to celebrate on. Let’s hope the pandemic will be a big lesson for the newly freed prisoners as well as an opportunity for them to live a better life.

For sure, we know that the negative impacts of the Covid-19 outweigh the advantages, but the virus has brought some degree of sanity in the world. For the first time, African leaders have been forced to understand the importance of a good and functional health system. With borders locked up and airports closed globally, the era of corrupt leaders travelling abroad for a headache or a common cold is temporarily gone. These leaders are forced to go to the same ill-equipped and inefficient health centres they once provided for their masses. Amid our agony, we are learning a lot – and much faster. If not anything, some once irresponsible governments and political classes are now forced to learn in a hard way the importance of providing adequate health care for their people.

Susane Colasanti, an American novelist says that even in a bad situation, there’s always a positive side. One could say that about the COVID-19.

By Samuel Ouma

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Kata Kata Cartoon Magazine.