Ebola, Zmapp and the Imminent Need for Africa’s Rise
Africa is an article of faith, I believe in this continent — Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, BHARAT at the World Economic Forum Africa (WEFA), Abuja.
On July 20 ,2014 Africa was on the spotlight again via Nigeria for no apparent applaudable reason.
A Liberian government official was diagnosed of the fatal EBOLA Virus.
The city of Lagos and Nigeria at large were thrown into chaos. Nigeria lacked in curative capacity towards an extremely contagious virus. our medical guide was also on her regular industrial action for lack of proper funding of health facilities and workers.
The thought of death ravaged our minds in hopelessness.
The EBOLA Virus had been ravaging neighboring African countries, with over infected 1800 persons and a mortality rate of 60% across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra-Leone.
There was panic over how the Liberian beat our aviation health scrutiny.
Nigerians were thrown into an uproar not just because of the fatality of the disease but because of the incompetence of the government, inadequate health infrastructure, poor response to medical emergency,unscrupulous incessant striking health workers and the nonchalance of the large populace.
Two days later, the Liberian died and it became salient that the terror we refused containment measures, had gone beyond knocking on our doors but was now an inhabitant of our homes.
The Lagos state government,the state in which the Liberian was diagnosed and later died, took containment measures; went in search of Type1 contacts , from the airport to the hospital, and was able to contain a certain media propagated figure.
To date, EBOLA Virus has infected about 15 persons with a record of Five deaths within the state, about 198 persons with primary and secondary contacts are believed to be under isolation or medical surveillance.
The Nigerian populace had also in the last weeks searched for all EBOLA related news, with different groups erecting and contriving medical aids across social media, the trend #Ebola has gone viral on the social, print and mass media.
It was also reported that the federal government through the office of the president voted Two Billion Naira to contain the widespread of the virus and effectively manage the health disorder of the infected persons.
Isolation centres are being set up at international airports to medically screen persons coming in from EBOLA endemic regions, isolation centres are also being erected by different state governments, the Striking National Medical Association, were also being cajoled to end their industrial actions without trying to meet their demands.
Amidst all these, two questions then comes to the mind;
1. Why did the Nigerian government allow the EBOLA virus reach us before taking precautionary measures?
2. Why did EBOLA attract media and global attention Immediately a case was reported in Nigeria?
Let’s start with an X-ray of the second question.
The world recognizes the economic ability as a formidable global potential that is waiting to be fulfilled. The world had to strengthen health security systems across land, sea and air boarders. It was at this point that airline operators began to restrict flight to affected countries, and aviation authorities of other nations begin medical surveillance of passengers.
The first recorded case of EBOLA in Nigeria prompted the attention of the WHO, UNITED NATIONS who all seem to agree after six months that EBOLA was now a global health emergency.
Returning to the first question, while Nigeria hosted world leaders, social and corporate entrepreneurs at the World Economic Forum, Africa (WEFA), EBOLA had risen its ugly and terrorizing face in few parts of West Africa- the world was mute to it.
Nigeria spoke nothing of it, rendered no aid to endemic regions, we didn’t start to train health workers nor build isolation centres to contain in case of an emergency; today it has cost us three lives, about eight infected persons with another 198 undergoing the trauma of isolation and medical surveillance.
This is a result of poor medical infrastructure, and unseasoned medical practitioners with its provenance rooted in non visionary leadership, corruption and a disgruntled populace.
Lack of visionary leadership in Africa has put is us in myriads of solvable challenges. Africa has the highest number of out of school children in the world with about 25 million children unable to get basic primary education, we have the poorest health facilities in the world, and we are contributing to half of the world’s underweight children.
Africa has the highest child mortality rate with about 80 children to die before the age of five in every 1,000 births. South Africa has lost more persons to HIV / AIDS than Europe with over 600,000 deaths till date and nearly 3 million persons are on antiretroviral drugs.
It is no news that Africa has the highest reserves of natural resources but inhabits the poorest nations in the world.
Africa might never be able to repay its debt to World Bank, IMF, and industrialized states even with the continuous relief of debts by the financial bodies.
As it stands today, there are 25 African countries in the top 35 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) across the globe, and over the years the populace has not seen the commensurate reflection of the loans and debts in capital or infrastructural development.
The #GiveUsSerum that was proposed on social media to prompt the swift arrival of the ZMapp drugs that was administered to the two Americans on missionary work in Liberia, prompts a few questions.
1. What were African leaders doing when the West were educating and schooling their citizens?
2. What were African leaders doing when the West was erecting state of the art medical facilities for her citizens?
3. What were our leaders doing when the West was funding scientific and technological research?
Our leaders were either misappropriating funds or investing in amorphous recurrent expenditure that has no any economic value.
The ZMapp and TKMR EBOLA drugs are long term investment on research via education. The educational standard of Africa is not just questionable, it needs urgent transformation as it’s taking a geometrical turn down the hill.
Africa has no University in the top 100 in the world, and has just four universities in the top 500. China alone has 44 universities and the United States has 106 universities. Africa has no significant contribution to scientific research, the only virologist in Sierra-Leone lost his life to the EBOLA virus.
The West has invested in other research fields which includes; respiratory virologist, coronary virologist, tropical and temperate region disease researcher, biological pathogenist and chemical pathogenist.
All of these research areas I doubt if Africa ever explores- this can be backed up by the recent survey of scientific paper researched across the globe with only two African countries-Egypt and South Africa, making presence with about 12,000 researched papers, Europe has 750,000 researched papers, America has 580,000 researched papers, Asia has 320,000 researched papers.
This should convince us beyond reasonable doubts why the west are at the fore front of technological and scientific breakthroughs.
Our request for ZMapp drugs and foreign aids only continually consternates the populace, and degenerates an already putrid continental image.
How long will we suckle from the breast of western leaders?
The world keeps footing Africa’s bills.
The World Health Organisation(WHO) and International Monetary Fund(IMF) have jointly voted $300M to help EBOLA endemic regions contain the disease till the outbreak is over.
I can remember discharging duties as a youth corp member at an immunization center, the health workers encountered lots of opposition in encouraging nursing mothers to bring their infants for vaccination.
It speaks volume about a culture that restrains growth, due to lack of access to basic information in this modern world.
Africa is acculturated to restrain growth in a fast-paced world.
Liberia and Sierra Leone have enforced the house to house check to root out hiding EBOLA patients, and enforced putting them into isolation,this is not just a result of lack of trust for the health facilities but also the indignity of stigmatization within an unschooled populace.
Bizarre has it may sound, when it went viral across the media that Nigerians should bath with salt solution, as it is a curative to the EBOLA virus. Most citizens patronised this information - it is the corollary for an unschooled, misled and misinformed populace.
It was also reported that the family of a female health worker in Nigeria has been on the run, when in contrast to Canadians and Americans who turn themselves in for isolation so as to reduce the chances of the wide spread of the virus. This also questions not just the mental sanity of the populace, but the compassion for humanity.
In his article titled corruption in Africa, Claire furphy quoted Jonathan Lucas who labelled corruption as “a crime against development, democracy, education, prosperity, public health and justice “- what many would consider as elements of social well being.
The corruption perception index(CPI)released in 2010 identified Africa has the most corrupt continent in the world which commensurate to why sub Saharan Africa is the most underdeveloped region the world, the CPI asses countries based on bribery of public office holders, kick back in public procurement and misappropriating of public funds on the scale of zero to ten, with zero signifying the most corrupt.
Six African countries are present in the top 10 most corrupt countries in the world, while a further forty-four have scores less than five, this reflects the plethora of problems across the continent.
The misappropriation of housing allocations renders millions homeless, diversion of educational funds is responsible for 25 Million children that are out of school, and the few that can afford basic education are half informed as we lack in enabling conducive academic environments.
Corruption is why Liberia does not enough health facilities to contain EBOLA patients, it is the reason why Africa cannot make vaccines or combat diseases.
The imminent need for Africa’s rise is the fact that we can not continue to be west dependent, our best brains are being exported for the advantage of the white in the ” brain drain”, our people are continually being exploited to the advantage of the West.
The worlds momentum is still hanging on a pedestal due to Africa’s ineptitude. Africa stands at a great risk, if the world decides to shut its bowel of aids from us.
At this point, I doubt if Africa is still an article of faith as even the citizens do not believe in her.
If Africa must rise and take its place in the global village with respect to her populace, land mass and avalanche of natural resources, then, African leaders must become visionary, with a mental picture of sustainable growth for her people with the virtues of character, competence, value and compassion.
The first and very notable step is to invest dominantly in human and structural capital by basically educating the African populace; all tiers of education from the primary to tertiary must be well equipped, we must take the African child of the street to the classroom, we must help place the African child in area of skill and refine that skill by education.
Every child that is born should enjoy the civic right of basic education irrespective of gender or social status.
Africa must begin to fund researches, our researches will not just produce our own EBOLA drugs, and we will contain other contagious disease.
We must build standard hospitals accessible at most between two km of health emergency, equip with working contemporary medical facilities, sprinkled with enabled medical professionals and win confidence of her people again.
It is only through education that the African populace can place visionary obligations on her leaders.
Through education we will identify societal problems, and the most convenient means to provide social and corporate solutions.
Africans must themselves now deal with the challenges of prejudice, regional and tribal bigotry, religious jingoism and the subtext of classicism prevailing within the Aristocrats.
To combat corruption in Africa, the Transparency International(TI) recommends its four pillars of prevention, decriminalization, asset recovery and international cooperation to ensure honesty, openness, transparency and ethical procurement in government.
This is made possible by the accountability of the civil society, the strengthening of the rule of law by the judiciary and autonomy of anti corruption commission to criminalize offending public holders.
The effect of corruption in Africa cannot be overestimated, as it keeps us at the mercy of foreign aids, continually impoverishes and Impedes development.
Finally, Li Kieqiang, Chinese premier quoted at WEFA saying, “Africa’s rise will make the world more stable, more democratic, and more robust”.
The world can be a better place economically and socially if Africa develops her economic capacity.
Dear Africa, we can’t continually wait for the Obama-New York summit or the Angelina Merkel-Berlin forum, it’s time for South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria to lead her different sub regions to Abuja or Addis Ababa for the summit of Africa’s long term growth.
This article was first written by Aladeloba Babatunde in August 2014.
(1) BBC, Health News, 2012 Child Mortality Record.
(2) Claire Furo, 2010 Corruption in Africa: A Crime
(3) This day, UNESCO, Children Out of School , 2012.
(4) The Punch, Tolu Ogunlesi, 2014 Nigeria vs Ebola.
(5) Transparency International, Corruption
Perceptions Index, 2010.
(6) World University Rankings, 2013–2014