COVID should change how the world views Africa

French Doctors Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht on live French TV gave their nod to testing re-engineered COVID vaccines in Africa. They claim that the entire continent of 52 different countries and over 1.2 billion souls have no virus protective equipment and no intensive care units. World outrage over these racist comments has been severe. Could COVID be the springboard for people to unite as equal human beings and refute those who see Africans as second class?

Google Josef Mengele. Read about his views on human ‘test subjects’ to find new drug treatments. Then, view or read the complete comments of Mira and Locht. Make your own decision about the two. For us, the commonalities in justifying a clinical approach to using a specific set of human beings for testing (albeit to a lesser degree) are frightening. The two french medical practitioners have stepped over the line of decency with their comments.

Peya Mushelenga, minister of Information, appeared on local television. He condemned the statements of these two French doctors. We applaud his swift and precise refutation that Africans must be guinea pigs for medical experimentation. He joins Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO chief condemned as “racist” the comments made by the two French doctors.

African footballers in Europe gave swift and angry denunciations of the two doctors. Go online to see their blunt reactions and responses.

Social media and mainstream broadcasters exploded worldwide with universal lambasting of the two French doctors. There is no notice yet about resignations from their current positions of responsibility in medical institutions in France. And, we have yet to read an official French government condemnation of the statements made.

The world must change what it believes (spoken or non-spoken) about Africans. Far too many in Europe, America, Asia (and amongst some self-hating Africans), accept that Africans are sub-humans. These people wouldn’t volunteer to test a trial drug on themselves. They would not agree to test it on their favorite pet. And yet, they have no qualms or comment about testing it out on Africans.

All human beings are in the COVID ship together. Some will be infected on this ship and heal; others will never disembark. It is a shared human threat that must unite the world. COVID fear could be reshaped into a tool to batter down the barriers between people and countries based on ignorance, racial hatred, and intolerance.

The backlash from the doctors’ comments makes matters worse. They have fuelled existing fears that Africans are already used as test subjects. Some hold the belief that Africans have long been the guinea pigs for money-making drugs, chemical weapons or questionable products destined for use by richer countries.

The spiraling misinformation that is rife on the internet and in rumor mills could have negative repercussions. It can push people who do not have access to credible clarifications, to reject COVID anti-infection measures. Legitimate and much-needed efforts to protect communities from infection could become suspected attempts by foreigners to use Africans as test subjects (again). There is a belief that whites, Chinese or those intent on exploiting Africa treat its people as expendable.

Coronavirus centers have been targeted in African countries. Most recently, a facility that was under construction in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, was attacked and destroyed by protesters.

Ebola health workers and their facilities have been attacked and wrecked by the very communities they were set up to help. They believed that the odds of contracting the illness were lower than the certainty of being poisoned by Western medicines.

During this pandemic, we do not need more confusion in local areas. There are already language gaps, educational levels, and information dissemination challenges. The ugly comments by the French doctors throw kerosene on the embers.

Let us be brutally frank. The statement of these two French doctors would NEVER have been applied to impoverished European countries like Moldova, Ukraine, Albania, Serbia, or Kosovo.

Such comments would never have been made in reference to provinces in China or India that are struggling with hygiene issues, infrastructure, literacy, and development concerns.

The two French doctors certainly would never have suggested using people in the impoverished Appalachian and Southern Mississippi Delta region in the United States as guinea pigs for possible re-engineered COVID vaccines.

Those same doctors would not have dared to hint that testing could work under the same parameters in the lower-income French region of Hauts-de-France.

Arguably, these non-African locations have very limited medical facilities or, “no masks, no treatment, no intensive care” as per the words of the French doctors.

We take note that one of the two errant doctors, Paris intensive care doctor Jean-Paul Mira, has apologized only for his “clumsy way” of presenting his ideas (as of April 8th.) He did not say, however, that his points were wrong, racist and inhumane.

The other doctor, in his silence, stands by his words.

If anything good can come from something as difficult as COVID-19, it is the recognition that all human beings, regardless of race, religion or country, are equally precious. Acceptance of equality in our human vulnerability to disease and suffering could unite people all over the world. Africa should not have to endure such insults towards its people ever again.

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