Monday, July 13, 2020

Pan-African Response to COVID-19: A Review

Pan-African Response to COVID-19: A Review
Achint Das, Intern, FOTC

Friends of the Congo-Atlanta organized a forum on the Pan-African Response to COVID-19, and the call was moderated by Carl Kananda, who is part of the Friends of the Congo Atlanta network. It covered a diverse array of topics, all related to the global epidemic disrupting society today. All the speakers, including Mr. Martin Azaboy Bunziga of the Telema Youth Movement, Mr. Diallo Kenyatta of the African World Order, Mr. Kambale Musavuli of the Center for Research on the Congo, Dr. Patricia Rodney of the Walter Rodney Foundation and Partners in Health, Education and Development (PHEAD), and Mr. Bernard Warner of the A & B Association of Persons with Disabilities, brought very important insights into the conversation that widened the audience's perspective on the outbreak response effort on the African continent and throughout the African world.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that similar to most issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the issue boils down to key core elements: malnutrition, misrepresentation, and oppression. If the people of the Congo are hungry, how can they focus on proper prevention techniques to keep them safe in the outbreak? Mr. Musavali's experience in supporting efforts to distribute soap and information speaks volumes about this issue. He was able to share how Congolese youth organized efforts to distribute over 20,000 soap bottles to the people of Kinshasa and educate them about best practices for avoiding the Coronavirus. The youth were met with this response: "we thank you for the soap and information, but before that, we need food." Adding to this is the issue of running water and stable homes, which unfortunately not every citizen has access to. Thus, the response effort does not start with social distancing and vaccination. Instead, it must be adapted to the community itself, a point brought up by many of the experts. If the Congo has the potential to feed the expected increase in the world's population of 2 billion by 2050, why are its people starving? Infrastructure has to be improved at the local level, and basic amenities must be established, closely monitored, and maintained before any other measure. Moreover, control of food production must not be in the hands of the elite, rich, and large international organizations.

We see this consistent issue of how people in the Congo are not the ones in control, even though they are the ones who have the right to be represented and accounted for. It is the typical "power lies in the hands of the few" to the extreme. In political, administrative, and governmental institutions, the common citizens are not the priority - money and influence are. This mindset leads to corruption and exploitation, even of healthcare and humanitarian efforts - the 70-page review by UN forces and aid groups that exposed corruption within the Ebola response, sexual exploitation of women and girls, and manipulation of delivery and procurement of supplies, is a prime example of this (link to this report.

Thus, the overwhelming call from the forum really highlighted how an effective health response and a permanent solution works from the ground up - attend to the basic needs of the people, push for institutional reform, and then call for Pan-African unity. That way, we can expect to see success like the nations in the Caribbean and Mauritius have experienced during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you are interested in viewing the archive of the forum, please click here.

We encourage you to support the efforts of the valiant Congolese youth in combating the Coronavirus by making a contribution to their GoFundMe Campaign.


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