The challenges Ethiopia is facing today, the corona pandemic and unsettled politics.
W. Yilma March 20, 2020.
The name Ethiopia is not new for the world communities. This is because of persistent political conflicts and poverty prevailing in the country for the last 5 decades. Because of this the majority of Ethiopian population are highly susceptible to any kind of infectious diseases. Particularly, the situation will be worst when newly emerging disease such as Corona virus outbreak occurred in such poverty-stricken susceptible population. This means the rise of morbidity and mortality rate among the susceptible population. As we all knows the pandemic outbreaks of corona virus is worrying the world communities, and Ethiopia is no exceptions to this scenario. Because of well-established disease reporting system many countries are reporting to their respective organizations (mainly to WHO) the status of notifiable diseases outbreaks. But this does not mean there is no problems in other countries due to various reasons. Lack of enforcing legislations or regulation and lack of capacity in some countries are a constraint to know exactly the status of highly contagious diseases such as corona virus outbreaks. This create problems not to control the disease on time before it causes significant harms to the general public.
No one knows the accuracy and reliability of the news coming from Ethiopia with regard to the spread of the Corona virus. Counting the diseased or testing and identifying those who have access to be tested does not give the actual epidemiological situation of the disease in question. At this time to know the scope of corona virus distribution in the population need well organized institutions with clear objectives from top to bottom. In the country like Ethiopia no one is blaming for drawbacks but this will be a very challenging and a national threat due to lack of public health infrastructure, the level of poverty, the prevailing internal political uncertainties, the indifference the Abiy government is pursuing not to solve the dire political differences with his political opponents. In time like this it is imperative to reach a national consensus to prioritize the challenges and to consolidate all resources to encounter the real national threat coming from within or outside. Contrary to this instead of relying on Ethiopians, Abiy government is not refrain from seeking external support to maintain his power, which is a recipe for disaster. At this time the major threats for Ethiopia is coming from two fronts. One is from Egypt and the second is the spread of infectious disease in this case the corona virus. The threats from both are real and need a national preparedness program with short- and long-term objectives.
Following the Black death of the 14th century plague (cause by bacteria) and the Spanish flu (highly virulent influenza virus) that has occurred in March 1918, our world today is facing another corona virus pandemic. Although it may not cause death the same level as the past two pandemic diseases, the socio-economic impact of the corona virus pandemic could be much worse than the previous two pandemics. What is more serious is the anxieties and fears it causes to the public is enormous, which both could be considered as a disease if they surpass their norms. What is clear to understand here is that the outbreak of the corona virus will certainly changing our ways of life (due to social distancing) and we need to cope with this realty until something achieved to control this disease. Adaptation with the new reality will help to control the disease. What should be mentioned here is that either the virus could be more virulent (more sever to cause disease) or it may become less virulent due to the nature of some virus go through their life cycle. There is also a possibility that one way or the other some diseases will come down at some point when there are many immunized people (due to vaccination or post- infection) among the population. Until now this virus is not showing major drift or shift in changing its genetic materials and in most cases, it shows similarities with the virus which cause Sever Acute Respiratory Syndromes (SARS) but with minor differences in its surface (have also minor differences in their transmissibility). This is the good news for scientist who are striving to get vaccine against this virus. The reason why politicians and physicians are overreacting to this virus is the high fatality rate the virus could cause among elderly and people with preexisting conditions. These overreacting approaches is appropriate at this time and the public should be vigilant until the virus become under control or until scientist understood fully the nature of this virus.
Rapid testing to caching up to identify those sick , isolating them and give them proper care, enough space to place those sick and aware the public to take every necessary precautions, implementing proper Quarantine for those suspected, provide necessary personal protective equipment to health care workers, and support the scientific communities to speed up their research to get vaccines or other medication to combat the virus is an important steps in combating this disease. I do not think it could be hard to put in place the above-mentioned procedures and necessary supplies for the developed nation. My concern is for the developing nations, including Ethiopia.
It is clear that the corona virus pandemic is a threat for the world as a whole, but each country has differences in combating and achievements the disease based on their political commitment, social and economic capabilities. What is important to mention here is that the level of public health infrastructure and the awareness of the public about this disease is an important tool to reduce community transmissions. How Ethiopia manage to reach out the public to create awareness and the compliance of the public to follow the advices coming from professionals should be a subject of discussions. But knowing the country’s potential it will not be an easy task without the cooperation of Ethiopian people and the assistance of the world communities, in which the later are busy in dealing with their own problems at this time. Then the questions come, do Ethiopia have the necessary materials and equipment to test, to isolate those sick, quarantine those suspected, the life supportive equipment for those seriously sick, the personal protective equipment’s necessary for professionals who deal day and night taking care of the sick? Do we have the political commitments, and financial capability to deal with direct and indirect economic loss due to the outbreaks of this virus? I do not think we have time to blame one another in this regard. Because this is the responsibilities of all concerned including the people living inside and outside. We should involve to contribute what we can leaving aside our political differences. But the government in power should take this initiative first and allow other stake holders to participate in combating this pandemic, which does not recognize boundaries.
As we are witnessing, the only country which can effectively abate and controlled this virus is China, an origin and an epicenter of the corona virus outbreaks. This show to what extent China is capable of combating any kind of threat by far better than US Americans and Europeans. China showed the effectiveness of implementing the emergency preparedness program to deal with this kind of newly emergence disease. China is now helping the European and some Asian countries, severely hits by this virus. Since, March 18th, no new case is reported in China, and hope the country will implement close monitoring and surveillance systems in tracking the disease, and contribute to the world how to combat effectively the situation like this. Simply China show its capability no matter what the US America and other European countries systematically criticizing China how it handles the matter during the start of the outbreaks.
Many countries, including US America is getting information from China about the nature of this virus, which is very important to produce vaccine or prophylactic medication against this deadly virus. The Americans and other European countries recently find out the effectiveness of malaria medication to fight the corona virus infection. This is a great news if the hydroxychloroquine is safe to use in people contracted corona virus. As we know this medication is widely available and is in use in the developing world, including in Ethiopia to fight against malaria. What need to know here is that improper usage of this drug could lead to drug resistance (this is a real challenge in some places, including in Ethiopia) and unless approved by recognize agencies it is unwise to recommend for treatment against this virus at this time. However, if people in Ethiopia heard about this news, I am afraid they may not be refrained from taking this pill with or without infected with the corona virus.
Finally, the politicians in Ethiopia in particular the government in power shows reluctance and ambiguity how to deal with disease. The political temperature is not showing slowing down at this crucial moment. In particular the Prosperity Party is fully engaging in promoting their political agendas by ignoring the importance of combating this deadly virus. At lower level PP members are attending meetings with a lot of people in small rooms. The PP president is busy in organizing and attending meetings to collect money from rich for his party. He is busy in provoking conflicts by attacking his political opponents, and blatantly insulting all educated communities and discrediting them if they don’t have car and buy house, they are good for nothing (what did he called those educated individuals congregated around him and worshiping him as a messiah and called him as a gift of God?) The efforts made so far by Abiy government is not reliable to combat the disease once it gets chance to spread in the population in the form of epidemic. For Abiy and his blind supporters, business is as usual and they are continues attacking as a rabid dog their political opponents. This show to what extent the government weakness to lead the nation in time of crises like this. For Abiy and his supporters TPLF, OLF, OFC and others are number one enemy, not corona virus or Egypt. Because of uncertainties for the last four years there is no economic growth and unemployment is at its highest level, not seen for the last 27 years. This could lead to public discontents and expose the country for external threats. This is the failure of the government in power due to its political naivety it promotes since it came to power. Therefore, without denying the support our people are deserved, it is the responsibility of all Ethiopians to follow closely the situation not let go things out of control.
Long Live Ethiopia!