COVID-19: Being part of the solution
One thing that disease pandemics have shown throughout history is the interconnectedness of the human race, not just because of the way in which viruses are spread, but because, unchecked, the fate of one can quickly become the fate of all.
In the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, there are a few stories that remind us of the strength of the human spirit and that we are often at our best in the service of others. Whilst these stories rarely represent the level of commitment and personal sacrifice displayed by the likes of Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh in the Ebola crisis of 2014, or Dr Alfa Sa’adu (who I eulogised in my previous article), they indicate what normal citizens can do to make a positive contribution in times of strife.
In recent days, much has been made in the UK of the efforts of Captain Thomas Moore (aged 99), who has raised £20 million (to date) for the NHS by walking 100 lengths of his garden. His example also inspired Margaret Payne, a 90-year-old Scotswoman, who aims to also raise money for the NHS by climbing the equivalent of a mountain (2,398ft) through repeated trips up and down her stairs.
What is perhaps most remarkable about these stories is that, despite the relative simplicity of these actions in terms of equipment, training or setup, they have inspired countless millions across the world. What they will achieve goes far beyond the amount of money raised (the NHS spends £13.7 million or ₦16.6 billion an hour), it gives people hope, enables and supports others to make a contribution and reminds us all, that we are at our best in the service of a greater good.
Sadly, as is often the case, there are counterpoints to these positive stories, which rather than providing examples of the best of human nature, demonstrate the opposite. Across the world, there are cases of individuals breaking lockdown rules, ignoring public health guidance and as a result endangering themselves and their communities. Whilst there have been a number of examples in Nigeria, perhaps the most egregious examples globally are from the US, particularly because they are in stark contrast to the efforts and ethos of Captain Moore and others.
Despite 710,272 cases (more than Spain, Italy, France and Germany combined) and 37,175 deaths, there have been a series of protests against lockdown rules in the US. Whilst some of these protests have been small and localised, organised by groups of citizens, some appear to be funded by billionaires, several with links to the President of the United States himself. As is often the case, these individuals are not driven by a noble ideology, but rather a desire to minimise their individual financial losses.
The largest demonstration so far occurred in Lansing, Michigan earlier this week, with thousands of protesters, several wearing MAGA hats and carrying Trump and confederate flags, demonstrating outside the Michigan State Capitol building.
Many of the photographs of the event feature individuals wearing military-style clothing and carrying assault rifles, which instantly call to mind former military personnel like Captain Moore. It is doubtful that many of these protestors have ever served their country, their lack of respect for authority makes this highly unlikely. However, it serves to mark the difference between those who are focused on the welfare of others, and those who are focused on their own needs, at the expense of others. It is for each of us to ask ourselves whether we are acting in ways that are aligned to the greater good, or in ways that are only motivated by our own self-interest.
In my previous article, I outlined my fears that Nigeria could become the epicentre of the virus in Africa. Unfortunately, recent mortality data from the UK and US, has added a further, more concerning the dimension. It is clear (although the underlying cause is unclear) that mortality rates in the UK and US are much higher for people of Black African descent than for any other demographic group. For example, in Chicago where 30 per cent of the population is black, black Americans account for 70 per cent of all coronavirus cases in the city and over 50 per cent of deaths in the state of Illinois. Whilst there are likely to be a myriad of complex socio-economic factors driving these outcomes, these trends reinforce the need for vigilance and caution in Nigeria and across the rest of Africa.
here is an old quote from Eldridge Cleaver, the Black American political activist, which seems particularly apt under current circumstances: “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” In this case, being part of the solution does not mean that we individually have to emulate Captain Moore or Mrs Payne, but it does mean that we should act in ways that benefit our neighbours, communities and compatriots. This can be as simple as staying at home, limiting our exposure to others and obeying the advice of our healthcare professionals.
Dr Folarin Majekodunmi, PhD, is the Director of Strategy and Transformation at Draper &, an international Healthcare and Data Analytics company that is currently assisting a number of global health systems in their response to the Covic-19 pandemic.