Somaliland: World Health Organization puts politics above the coronavirus fight in the Horn of Africa

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The communist Chinese government concealed the severity of the coronavirus outbreak; they were slow to share with the rest of the world the spread of the virus and its transmission.

The World Health Organization colluded with China by covering up the threat of the virus. The head of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former member of Ethiopia’s regime, was pandering to China when he said in late January: “The Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak.”

In fact, on Jan. 30, Tedros said that “WHO does not recommend limiting trade and movement” to China. This recommendation, plus the stranglehold China has on the Ethiopian economy, has resulted in Ethiopian Airlines to continue to fly daily to five Chinese cities despite knowing it could bring more potential coronavirus-infected people to Africa from China. The Ethiopian regime is recklessly putting its narrow political and economic interests above the health and safety of millions of Africans.

By Wednesday, there are over 2 million confirmed cases, 130,000 deaths globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The worst outbreak of the virus is now ravaging Europe and North America — countries with advanced science, medicine, and health infrastructures.

While China is receiving accolades from Tedros for “the speed by which China responded to the outbreak,” it is now sending planeloads of medical supplies to Europe, North America, and Africa to exploit the failure of President Trump’s leadership on the global response of the deadly pandemic.

This is an unprecedented public health and economic crisis and something that is affecting the lives of people on every continent: school closings, business closings, a skyrocketing of unemployment, travel chaos, the suspension of congregational prayers, and the cancellation of the 2020 Olympics. But Africa is the continent least-equipped to cope with the effects of the outbreak. African countries are already struggling with infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV, given their fragile health infrastructures.

Africa is suffering from the lack of access to running water and soap, which hampers hand-washing. Social distancing is also difficult to achieve because of cramped living conditions in which an infected person who coughs or sneezes could spread the virus.

So far, Somaliland (the de facto state in Africa that separated itself from Somalia after a civil war in 1991) has a total of five confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to health officials. One of the infected people is a Chinese national brought to Africa by Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline on the continent.

To contain the spread of the pandemic, the Somaliland government has set up a national task force to coordinate the coronavirus response, headed by Vice President Abdurahman Zaylici, and has mobilized community, business, and religious leaders.

But Somaliland is not a member of the highly politicized WHO, because the United Nations still clings to the fiction that Somaliland is a part of its chaotic, war-torn neighbor, Somalia. Because of that, Somaliland is not at the table even with observer status at WHO meetings and gatherings to receive the information and assistance it needs to contain the pandemic.

Somaliland still lacks even the capacity to test for the virus. The denial of Somaliland membership in the WHO is putting the lives of 4 million Somalilanders at risk.

Without diplomatic recognition, Somaliland lacks the resources to defend itself from the brunt of the coronavirus. The fledgling democratic state, still recovering from decades of war and instability, has an underfunded and ill-equipped healthcare system and lacks basic health infrastructure, test kits, and essential gear to fight the pandemic.

Somalilanders are practicing social distancing and quarantining to contain the virus and avoid the unnecessary hospitalization of COVID-19 patients. But it’s appalling for the U.N. and its agencies such as the WHO to put the diplomatic status of Somaliland ahead of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

For instance, the Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma donated test kits and equipment intended for Africa, which landed in Addis Ababa. These materials were distributed to neighboring countries of the Horn of Africa, except for Somaliland.

Finally, Somaliland leaders are pleading from the rest of the world for help and assistance — test kits and the capacity to test the virus now. If we’re really serious about fighting the pandemic, Somaliland has to be a member of the WHO, and it should not matter if that decision insults the leaders of an inherently unstable Somalia and its backers at the U.N.

This is a global pandemic, and it requires a global effort, because as Tedros says, the coronavirus “knows no borders.”

Ali-Guban Mohamed is the founder and editor of Gubanmedia.com, an online source of news and commentary about the Horn of Africa.

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