International cooperation required to fight COVID-19 and its impact on the world communities
After a series of verbal attacks against the World Health Organization (WHO) and its Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the United States administration of President Donald Trump has announced that funding to the agency which is an affiliate of the United Nations will cease.
Trump has accused the WHO, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, of being biased towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a socialist country which has been a target of the current administration through the imposition of tariffs and a consistent propaganda campaign.
Dr. Tedros had previously worked in the Health Ministry in his home country of Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa. Beijing and Addis Ababa maintain close relations in the economic and medical fields which are representative of the two decades-long Forum on China-Africa Relations (FOCAC) formed between African Union (AU) member states and the Chinese government.
The WHO Director General has spoken in favor of broader cooperation between various states internationally in the effort to end the pandemic. The U.S. administration and corporate media has repeatedly accused China of misrepresenting the actual situation taking place in Wuhan and other areas.
On April 8, Dr. Tedros in one of the frequent briefings on the global situation related to the pandemic decried the politicization of the international health crisis. He acknowledged that there had been racial insults directed towards him personally as well as death threats.
In response to these threats, he said that: “To me personally, I don’t mind. I prefer to really focus on saving lives. Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying? I know that I am just an individual. Tedros is a dot in the universe. If you don’t want many more body bags then you refrain from politicizing it.” (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-08-april-who-briefing/)
As of April 15, almost two million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide. Of that number, over 123,000 have died from the infection. The U.S. has more cases than any other country in the world with approximately 600,000, resulting in 26,000 deaths. (https://covid19.who.int/)
New York City, the financial nerve center of the world capitalist system, has been the most severely impacted in the U.S. in terms of number of cases. Over 11,000 people have died with nearly 120,000 confirmed illnesses.
The economic downturn resulting from the pandemic is being felt internationally. Within the U.S., 17 million workers have applied for unemployment benefits while the healthcare system is working at over capacity.
Within the context of such a social situation in the U.S. it would appear that the administration would be more than willing to work with other governments and institutions towards finding a solution to the crisis. Countries in Europe such as Italy, Spain, France and Britain, are being seriously challenged by the pandemic with high rates of infection and deaths.
Inside the African continent, the Republic of South Africa appears to have taken the most drastic measures through the enactment of a lockdown over the last three weeks. President Cyril Ramaphosa has mobilized the South African National Defense Forces (SANDF) along with thousands of volunteer healthcare workers to patrol communities to ensure the necessary social distancing and mass testing required in identifying, treating and isolating COVID- 19 cases.
The African Union (AU), the continental organization encompassing 55 member-states, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the country where Dr. Tedros is from. The AU on April 14, joined with the WHO and the World Food Program (WFP) in sending a delegation to provide assistance to various African states.
A WHO statement noted of this mission: “The first United Nations ‘Solidarity Flight’ is scheduled to leave Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today (April 14) – from there, the aircraft will transport the vital medical cargo to all countries in Africa, where supplies are desperately needed to contain the spread of COVID-19. WHO cargo is being transported by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and includes face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks, medical aprons and thermometers, as well as ventilators. The cargo also includes a large quantity of medical supplies donated by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Jack Ma Foundation Initiative to reverse COVID-19 in Africa. The African Union, through the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is providing technical support and coordination for the distribution of the supplies.” (https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/14-04-2020-first-un-solidarity-flight-departs-addis-ababa-carrying-vital-covid-19-medical-supplies-to-all-african-nations)
Director General Dr. Tedros said that he regretted the withdrawal of U.S. financial support and cooperation in the fight for global health advances. He noted that the WHO would pursue other sources to offset the actions of Washington.
China, Cuba and the Struggle to End the Pandemic
Despite the slanderous comments by members of the Trump administration and representatives of both capitalist-oriented political parties in the U.S., China and the Republic of Cuba are both engaged in various projects domestically and internationally to arrest the spread of COVID-19. Trump has frequently referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” Such rhetoric has translated into physical attacks on Asian Americans in the U.S. which is a reflection of the anti-China propaganda so prevalent within governmental circles and the corporate media.
China has been able to engage in a phased reopening of areas previously affected by the pandemic. Physicians and research scientists have gained tremendous experience from treating the outbreak and containing the number of illnesses and deaths.
Moreover, experts have been working on the development of a vaccine that would provide herd immunity from the COVID-19 virus. There are three different clinical trials already being conducted at the first and second stages of the process.
According to an article published by Global Times on April 15: “As the number of coronavirus infection cases rapidly approaches two million worldwide and as the world grows more desperate by the day for a vaccine that could put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, a glimpse of hope finally emerged from China: not one but three domestically developed vaccines have entered clinical trials. However, even as Chinese scientists and researchers are working around the clock to push forward vaccines, global cooperation remains paramount to not only accelerating research and development (R&D) of vaccines but also paving the way for a more collaborative platform for future crises.” (http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1185638.shtml)
As it relates to the work of Cuban scientists and healthcare workers, the drug Interferon Alpha2-b has been advanced as a treatment for COVID-19. The medication was used in China with positive outcomes.
In Germany, where the pandemic has had a dramatic impact, a businessman Georg Scheffer, who owns a medical products manufacturing company named Profumed, has proposed the purchasing and importation on a large scale of Interferon Alpha 2-b. An article published by Deutsche Welle, said of the proposal that: “As no vaccine is yet available against SARS-CoV-2, Scheffer wants to import Interferon alfa-2b (IFNrec) from Cuba, noting that he has maintained close business ties with the island nation for years. INFNrec, a drug typically administered to strengthen a person’s immune system, is usually given to patients with dengue fever, cancer or hepatitis B and C. In China, however, it has been used alongside other drugs to treat individuals who have contracted SARS-CoV-2. The results are said to have been promising. ‘Every human life we can save though Interferon justifies us working to secure an import license for the drug,’ said Scheffer. He desperately wants to spare Germany the kind of public health catastrophe that has devastated Italy.” (https://www.dw.com/en/cuban-drug-as-possible-treatment-for-coronavirus-patients/a-53015483)
U.S. Foreign and Domestic Policies Endangers Lives Worldwide
Therefore, these efforts pursued by socialist states such as China and Cuba should be given strong consideration by the scientific and medical community in the Western countries including the U.S. During a previous pandemic involving the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which struck several West African states during 2013-2015, Cuba played a pivotal role in resolving the crisis.
The government deployed thousands of healthcare workers to these impacted states where testing and field hospital construction proved decisive in the eradication of the outbreak which killed thousands and sickened many more. Cuba has developed the highest per capita doctor-population ratio of any country internationally.
Brigades of international students, even from the U.S., have been trained in the Cuban Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Graduates from the school are engaged in the fight against COVID-19 in Cuba as well as other countries throughout the world including Italy and the U.S.
These scientific and medical advancements should be utilized by the U.S. to assist in resolving the crisis inside the country and abroad. The interdependency of humanity requires greater collaboration in the struggle to meet the challenges of the contemporary period. Consequently, the campaign by Trump to destabilize the WHO should be condemned by progressive forces inside the U.S. and throughout the world.
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Wednesday April 15, 2020