Commentary: African Union and World Health Organization, put your acts right

By James William Mugeni

EDITOR, it appears the Africa Union [AU] and World Health Organisation [WHO] had to be kick-started by the US when  WHO funding was stopped. These supplies are a kneejerk reaction.

To start supplies to the continent of Africa, AU and WHO needs to ensure there are accounting systems in place. You are throwing supplies to an abyss. Minus the essential manpower, minus structural adjustments this is just trashing supplies.

Author: James William Mugeni

This effort has gaps that can be exploited by evil systems that have targeted WHO. I am lucky to have served both WHO and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] in my career. As a medical clinical officer, my training and original deployment was under the WHO system. I even learnt of the push for health for all by the year 2000 through WHO. A dream that was never achieved by nations that subscribed to WHO.

As time went on, I eventually got a job with the CDC that completely changed my WHO thinking. With CDC, I signed to work as a Foreign Service national to the US government and my job was to help America implement its foreign policy using health as a tool.

I witnessed CDC dismantle all the health systems developed under WHO in my country to almost 70%. My country’s healthcare system was answering to CDC. COVID -19 has the whole world confused and WHO almost standing out as the white elephant we learnt of in primary healthcare. Health in all developing countries has nosedived. So what is AU and WHO doing?

Now that the African Union and WHO have rolled out efforts to support Africa, there is a lot that needs to be done, especially in structures. WHO knows very well that Africa has only thieving systems that are embedded in failed governance? Some of these corrupt systems have compromised most donor countries and without the US that has been a pillar to CDC, how is Africa regrouping for health?

Matters of health are not for China, the US, UK; name it. Matters of health concern all humanity it is wrong for any individual nation to think they should use it to influence countries. The AU/WHO need to seriously consider manpower or human resource that most African countries are failing to support financially and technically.

The systems we have in place are run by governments that do account to citizens so served. There are areas that are technically exploited by the world. The AU/WHO shouldn’t just fly out supplies to African political systems that take advantage of its citizens. Most African countries are failed democracies where those in power have created the health gaps.

So, flying out supplies without seriously considering factors that created weak healthcare systems is part of the vicious cycle. Don’t just fly out political plans, let them be health care plans for nations. Africa should not be just a recipient of supplies but helped to build supplies. We have gone back to giving a fish other than giving a fishing hook.

The first United Nations “Solidarity Flight” is scheduled to leave Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today, From there, the aircraft will transport the vital medicines for Africa. The first United Nations “Solidarity Flight” is cargo to all countries in Africa, where supplies are desperately needed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The WHO cargo is being transported by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and includes face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks, medical aprons, 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. These flights are just a wastage of taxpayers’ money, please.

The WHO knows that as of now, Africa has very poor accounting systems. The WHO needed to organize its own independent task force with the huge manpower Africa has. All we have in all countries are political structures that have used their populations to fleece most of these so-called UN Organizations. 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.

“Commercial flights are grounded, and medical cargo is stuck. We can stop this virus in its tracks, but we’ve got to work together. The WFP is committed to getting vital medical supplies to the front lines and to shielding medical workers as they save lives,” said David Beasley, WFP’s Executive Director. “Our air bridges need to be fully funded to do this, and we stand ready to transport frontline health and humanitarian workers as well as medical cargo,” he added.

The Solidarity Flight is part of a larger effort to ship lifesaving medical supplies to 95 countries,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “I would like to thank the African Union, the governments of UAE and Ethiopia, the Jack Ma Foundation and all our partners for their solidarity with African countries at this critical moment in history.” 

The crucial WHO cargo includes one million face masks, as well as other personal protective equipment, which will be enough to protect health workers while treating more than 30 000 patients across the continent and laboratory supplies to support surveillance and detection.

“The medical supplies are timely as the continent still has a window of opportunity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Collective and fast actions as exemplified by the Solidarity Flight are therefore critical,” said John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC.  Both the UN and WFP are structures serving destitution caused by leadership in Africa set for holding Africa captive in a vicious cycle of filling the cup.

“As part of a global appeal to raise a US$2 billion for the COVID-19 response, launched by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 25 March, WFP is calling for US$350 million to establish vital humanitarian hubs around the world to facilitate the storage and dispatch of essential medical cargo, set up air transport links for cargo and personnel, contract charter vessels for shipping services, and provide passenger air and Medevac services for humanitarian and health workers. This includes such Solidary Flights through Addis Ababa.  Currently, WFP has received only 24% (US$84 million) of the US$350 million it requires to provide these vital common services to the global humanitarian community.” All this funding is to feed monsters in Africa systems.

There is need for the African Union and WHO to go back to the drawing board; otherwise without scrutiny of these responses we are better off without funding.

The author is a Medical Clinical Officer/Certified Public Manager based in the United States of America.


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