ETHIOPIA’S PRIME minister Abiy Ahmed has issued a plea for a co-ordinated global response to tackling COVID-19 adding that if the virus was not defeated in Africa “it will only bounce back to the rest of the world”.
Writing in the Financial Times Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said that “the current strategy of uncoordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive.
‘We are all in this together’
“A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this. We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.”
So far the Ethiopian Public Health Institute and Federal Ministry of Health had confirmed 29 cases of COVID-19 within Ethiopia, of which two have recovered, two are in intensive care, two have been transferred to their home countries and zero deaths have been registered.
Though Ethiopia, much like the rest of Africa, has thus far been spared the most devastating effects of COVID-19, this has not stopped the government, under Ahmed’s leadership, from championing the need for a coordinated response to the pandemic.
Ethiopia has focused its strategy on the need for proactive interventions to curb the potential spread of the virus.
These have included the allocation of an emergency budget, the mandatory quarantining of all travellers arriving into Ethiopia for a period of 14 days, the closure of schools, limiting the majority of the Federal workforce to working from home and the postponement of large public gatherings such as festivals and sports events.
Ahmed has also played a central role in co-ordinating a joint relief initiative for African, helping to distribute millions of testing kits and personal protective equipment from China to African states donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.
Ethiopia’s efforts throughout the crisis have also won praise from Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab who wrote on Twitter: “Good conversation with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Ali. Thanked him for Ethiopian Airline’s ongoing commitment to supporting Brits across Africa get back home. Also discussed how UKAid can support African partners like Ethiopia in the fight against COVID-19.”
However despite the success of these efforts Prime Minister Ahmed pointed out the challenges that COVID-19 still poses for Ethiopia, a country where extended families living together is central to its way of life.
This means it is often not easy to implement social distancing measures.
Challenges facing Africa
He added that providing quality healthcare for the country’s citizens is not easy because the cost of servicing debts is more than Ethiopia’s annual health budget.
“This grim reality is not unique to Ethiopia. It is shared by most African countries” Ahmed said.
“But if [global leaders] do not take appropriate measures to tackle the pandemic, no country in the world is safe. Momentary victory by a rich country in controlling the virus at a national level, coupled with travel bans and border closures, may give a semblance of accomplishment. But we all know this is a stopgap.
“Only global victory can bring this pandemic to an end. Covid-19 teaches us that we are all global citizens connected by a single virus that recognises none of our natural or man-made diversity: not the colour of our skin, nor our passports, or the gods we worship. For the virus, what matters is the fact of our common humanity.”
Ahmed continued: “That is why the strategy to tackle the human and economic cost of this global scourge must be global in design and application. Health is a worldwide public good. It requires global action guided by a sense of global solidarity.”