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COVID-19: Let Us Concentrate On Life-saving Issues- Prof. Asanji

In the following interview with Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG, *Prof. Fru Asanji Fobuzshi Angwafo III discusses the lessons learned from the raging Coronavirus pandemic or COVID-19. He says there is urgent need for enhanced cooperation between China and Africa to fund positive local medicinal research initiatives to help tackle the disease.

The current Coronavirus pandemic has betrayed the vulnerability of the world’s health systems. What lessons can Africa draw from this?

At a glance, one of the lessons this pandemic is teaching the blue planet is that we are all members of a small village called EARTH. Each nation has a health system in relation to a dedicated public policy. Health systems the world over have been heavily impacted by the pandemic from a structural, human, material and financial standpoint. It is imperative to take a step back to assess the situation thoroughly.

A priori, the concerns of the Cameroon health system relate to deficits of qualified human resources, upgrading infrastructure and technical platforms, and financial accessibility to quality health service. An unexpected lesson from the Coronavirus pandemic is that pristine African remedies have given voice to the continent to henceforth provide solutions to international disasters.

Budding scientific research, in the realm of traditional pharmacopoeia, has proffered endogenous responses, bringing a glimmer of hope to Africans in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. These positive initiatives are begging for concerted efforts and resolve to structure and fund medicinal research and its champions. It is more compelling today to muster the vigour needed to protect African fauna and flora and reward the rigours of scientific distinction. Last but not the least, is the position of health – our true wealth – in our development agenda.

Response measures by governments have generated a global economic recession; a drastic fall in household purchasing power at the microeconomic and macroeconomic levels; and a sharp increase in indebtedness and unemployment. Is it not time now for African countries to respect their engagement to allocate 15 percent of their national budgets to health as recommended by the 2001 Abuja Declaration? Efficient health systems capable of countering pandemics and growing sturdy populations are a prerequisite for fast-tracking development!

The social media and even some mainstream media have been awash with conspiracy theories as to who “created” or “started” the new Coronavirus. What should be the attitude of African health professionals to such narratives?

Although freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, I think this confusion should not be added to an already troubled situation. What are the facts? What are the answers? Personally, these are the questions that punctuate our daily lives and our attitude towards COVID-19. Let us focus on life-saving issues as we garner our intelligence and talents to tackle this pandemic. COVID-19 is real and is a new kid on the block, never before experienced in human medicine. So, your guess is as good as anybody’s. It affects one and all, our families and our communities. To save lives, we have to adopt barrier measures to stop Coronavirus’ propagation viz:

– wearing masks

– coughing or sneezing in the crook of the elbow or in a disposable handkerchief

– washing hands regularly with soap and water, and

– respecting physical distancing.

Informed arguments go against stonewalling debates on the origin of COVID-19. Notwithstanding the existential and philosophical merits on determining its source, it is advisable to strictly comply with reasoned governmental instructions in order to save lives. Filibustering, academic and scientific debates and harangue, will certainly entertain the post-COVID-19 pandemic future.

What can China, as the continent’s leading trade and financial partner, do to assist Africa uplift the standards of its healthcare systems? Especially as COVID-19 has left health services overstretched?

I salute the wealth and excellence of Sino-Cameroonian cooperation, particularly in the area of ​​health. The Gyneco-Obstetric and Pediatric Hospital in Yaounde, Cameroon, which was created by Presidential Decree No. 2001/271 of September 24, 2001, is fruit of this exemplary win-win cooperation.

The assistance of the People’s Republic of China is invaluable for the Cameroon health system. Since 1972, China has built hospitals, regularly dispatched medical teams, and offered equipment to optimize technical platforms. Jack Mah Foundation’s assistance to the African continent’s efforts to fight COVID-19 is remarkable. A friend in need is a friend indeed, so we say!

Informed opinion holds that the answer to improving our healthcare system is endogenous. It is our health professionals under the distinguished coordination of the Ministry of Public Health who must establish norms and standards, care protocols, assessment and accreditation criteria for approval of health facilities in relation to quality of service, among others. It is in this perspective that we should be musing on post-COVID-19 performance.

Obviously, international solidarity contributes to the development plans of states, in the spirit of one human family, one health. Notwithstanding sovereignty, development – especially the improvement of living conditions and the well-being of populations – should be a great national and international cause. One world, one human race!

No one knows when the next pandemic will strike. On what areas should African governments and health professionals focus? Can China be of any assistance in this regard?

“To govern is to foresee,” it is often said. The stakes are multiple – environmental questions, armed conflicts, increase in demography and the scarcity of resources, for instance. Pandemics are adding to this anthology of uncertainty. What can we do? Invest in human security. This involves various sectors – education, health, sustainable development, etc. We need to revisit the social contract. COVID-19 has awakened the world to the need for governments to “save lives first.” And this is only possible if the population is effectively involved.

Investing in people, committing to restoring human dignity and well-being is the vocation of any healthcare professional. May these professionals be considered at their fair value, with working conditions conducive to the exercise of their art made available to them. We need to commit to dedicated health professionals who have their ankles to the oath because selflessness and dedication are rarely synonymous with mediocrity.

The People’s Republic of China is a friend of Cameroon. We can only extol the magnificence of this cooperation and wish that it will bear more fruit!

*Prof. Fru Asanji Fobuzshi Angwafo III, a urologist, is the Director General of the Chinese-built Gynaeco-Obstetric and Pediatric Hospital, Yaounde, Cameroon. Prof. Angwafo is a former Permanent Secretary in the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health. He boasts over 30 years of serving in the United States of America and Cameroon as a clinician, university lecturer, and medical researcher focusing on public health and uro-pathology.

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