Of all announcements from the Ministry of Health on the Covid-19 pandemic, the one issued last week was the most mindboggling. Even the monthly notices, that used to be broadcast on lockdowns and curfews, come a distant second.
In the one and a half years the pandemic has been around, one thing is clear, the conventional methods being used with abandon in the West make little sense in Africa.
Nothing made this clearer than the failure of the elitist lockdown measures in economically struggling Africa, which, other than becoming a cash cow for security agents, played a negligible part in managing spread of the virus.
That said, we were all willing to be placed under the inconveniences, and, for many, impoverishing restrictions if that was the only way to survive. In any event, the Africa doomsday prophets, including former Mrs Bill Gates had written an epitaph on the continent.
I am informed that many hospitals had imported body bags knowing for sure that our catastrophe was on the way. Some 18 months on, many global scientists are baffled by the African Covid miracle.
WHO has been reporting consistently and with consternation that despite low vaccination rates, (currently only an estimated 6 per cent of the population is vaccinated), and rudimentary health infrastructure in most of the continent, Covid continental infections have been dropping since July. What mystifies researchers is that while the continent comprises 17 per cent to the global population, our share of Covid deaths is a mere 3 percent of global fatalities. To make the comparison real, Nigeria and Ethiopia with a combined population of 325 million have recorded 10,000 deaths from Covid since the beginning of the pandemic.
America, with a similar population, with more than 60 per cent of its population vaccinated and with world-class health infrastructure has lost 770,000 people to Covid in that same period. Closer home in Kenya, our vaccination rate is about 10 per cent. Our health infrastructure has severe challenges. That notwithstanding, the Covid preference has been going down and currently hovers at less than 2 per cent. At Kenyatta National Hospital, the doctor in charge told the BBC this week that the ICU had only two patients.
Clearly, what has impacted our reducing numbers and reduced fatalities is not vaccination. If this be true, then why are we placing vaccination on such a pedestal? For the avoidance of doubt, I am not an anti-vaxxer and indeed have received both jabs. What I do not understand is why the Health Ministry is not concentrating on establishing reasons why the rates are going down in Kenya despite absence of vaccination.
They would concentrate on enhancing factors related thereto instead of pushing the vaccine which many global scientists are convinced is not the panacea for Africa. Could the vaccine indeed reduce our natural immunity which is what has protected Africa from the scourge?
Shouldn’t this matter to our policy makers at Afya House? Why this fascination with copying the Western jab solution? Finally, when did we decide that the only way to govern people is by paternalistic ordering around the population?
That we can only get compliance through threats like we tried with Huduma Namba. Our long-suffering population does not deserve this. They have borne threats on masks, been forced to pay bribes or been beaten senseless for breaking curfew as they went about their hustles for survival.
Why must we use bully tactics and threaten to deny people services to force a solution unrelated to our current situation? The argument that “but America and Europe are doing it’ is an insult to our otherwise impressive intelligence and a criminal abandonment of basic good sense. We deserve better, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe!