By Meyanga Abu
Many countries worldwide are coping with lost revenues and disrupted supply chains because many manufacturing industries are shutdown and quarantine measures continue to spread across the globe restricting movement and commercial activities.
The IMF in its wisdom has come out to say that the COVID-19 pandemic had instigated an economic downturn the likes of which the world has not experienced since the great depression.
The world as judged today is a global village but then faced with a disease that is more contagious than SARS, Ebola etc, will the world unify in solidarity to stop the spread of COVID-19? Or will nations be so overwhelmed by growing fears as to adopt beggar-thy neighbours’ policies that will weaken the foundation of global public heath cooperation? Can we say that the fast spreading coronavirus disease is a wake-up call for the international community to act swiftly and build a safer globalised world or a further de-globalization in a world that is already beset by virulent nationalism? In China today stigmas associated with COVID-19 are proliferating and racism against the blacks; especially Nigerians are a growing trend.In USA, some senior government officials are viewing the pandemic through the ideological prism that may on the long run poison China-US relationship. The situation the world finds itself now is not the time for blame game but time to express empathy, work with other nations to kick-start bilateral health co-operations. The outcome of the current coronavirus battles and by extension the prospects of global health co-operation depend on whether uplifting stories or negative narratives dominate.
As the world is grappling with the economic crisis of COVI-19 pandemic, sincere and honest international coordination is the best way to mitigate the immediate economic impacts from the disease outbreak so as to revive global economic growth.
The path towards global public health security needs greater international co-operation. This is so because closer international coordination is most times hard to come by due to the stark differences among nations in terms of political system, social norms, national interests, culture and traditions. The world needs to come together, grips with the global healthcare vulnerabilities exposed in the coronavirus crisis and fully recognize that a global challenge like the current COVID-19 pandemic requires a robust response at the global health system level. The world health system should do everything humanly possible to do away with “panic neglect “approach and throwing money at epidemics any time there is public health emergency. There seems to be general lack of co-operation and preparedness by world health systems for epidemics. World Health Organization (WHO)3 as a matter of fact needs to build or strengthen and sustain resilient national, regional and global capacities required to keep the world safe from epidemics and health emergencies.
The COVID-19 seems to be testing international co-operation as the spread of the new virus continues to upend societies, freeze economies and reshaping global health and development. With over 2 million cases and over 138 thousand deaths at the time of this article, the pandemic has no doubt created an unprecedented global health crisis that many countries and institutions are grappling with how to respond. Some countries in the mist of COVID-19 are forging friendship and co-operation; example is Saudi-Yemen war that Saudi has decided to settle their conflict outside battle field. The Saudi coalition fighting in Yemen has agreed to implement a unilateral two weeks of cease fire to support political solution to the conflicts and help to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt emerged as a new battle ground for global influence. European leaders are struggling to create a united front of assistance to African countries bracing for COVID-19 in response to some of their beliefs as an effort by China to position itself as low-income countries’ ally. From the look of things, COVID-19 pandemic risks being politicized to the advantage of international actors with different agendas. China is trying to move on from being the cause and epicenter of COVID-19 to being perceived as strong supporter of efforts by affected low-income nations to contain the disease. UAS has threatened to put a very powerful hold on US funding to WHO accusing the WHO of being apologetic of China handling the disease and refusing to act quickly enough to raise alarms about COVID-19 outbreak.
Today most actions of many nations are becoming more nationalistic from health emergencies to economic and political issues. COVID-19 pandemic may deal a blow to fragmented international supply chains, reduce the hyper-mobility of global business men, travelers and may provide political fodder for nationalists who favour greater protectionists’ and immigration controls. It is obvious that many internationally minded individuals are speaking and uttering sweet and fine words about the need for cross-border co-operation in the face of unprecedented common threats or health emergencies like coronavirus pandemic, but their actions have often belied their sweet talks. In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union’s barrier-free single market has come under threats; France and Germany have banned the export of face masks. India today has limited its exports of life saving drugs from its vast pharmaceutical sectors. These singular actions can provide excusable platform for those wishing to localize production of all sorts of products on the ground of national security.
COVID-19 pandemic may be set to usher in a less globalized world and if so what happen to the concept of international co-operation, and the likes of United Nation, World Health Organization and what have you. Time will tell.
Menyanga Abu, FIMC, CMC.
Health Systems and Development Consultant.