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Thursday, 20 February 2020

Covid - 19; 80,000 African Students in China, A Call For Continent Wide Approach

We have followed with keen interest and empathy, the quagmire of hundreds of thousands of African students in China, especially those in Wuhan, have hitherto been facing in the past weeks. A prominent proportion of them are studying either in University of Wuhan, Huazhong University of Science & Technology, Central China University, and others withing Wuhan (the epicentre of the global outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus).

While expressing our genuine solidarity to the peoples of China at this difficult time that presents a historic litmus-test on their healthcare capacity, amidst socioeconomic challenges, we must also identify the best decisive and proactive step Africa must take.

Whereas some nationals wish to be evacuated, others seem reluctant and countries like Ghana and Kenya, already taking pragmatic steps at bringing home their students/nationals after having facilitated medical and humanitarian relief for them. The question is, what must Africa do in concert, putting our 'peculiarities' into due cognizance.

Meanwhile, I would like African students leaders in China, especially the Nigerian Students Association - Wuhan/China, over 300 members of National Union of Ghana Students - Wuhan/China, Zambian Students in Wuhan/China led by Ms Tisiliyani Salima, Zimbabwean Students in Wuhan/China especially our brother and comrade - Tatenda Chakanyuka, Kenyan Students in China (my brother Jomo Odhiambo Erick), Liberian Students, Cameroon Students especially the historic survivor - Kem Senou Pavel Daryl, and each and every African Students in China, to be strong now and at all times. We are of course, concerned about entire African communities in China at this difficult time.

One cannot but worry about what healthcare (in)capacity Africa has to handle such outbreak should it spread this-wards. It had better been only imagined than experienced.

Fact is that even if we excuse inadequate healthcare capacity to handle this, we have extensively porous borders. This means that no African country may really be safe. I thank God I hear, from unverified sources though, that our genetic composition presents some resistance to the obstinate virus that has defied available medication.

More so, there is germane need to institute quarantine arrangements to follow evacuation logistics. It is only in Africa that returnees could be certified free of the virus, after best practices are observed before leaving the epicentre. Such a country with the requisite capacity could serve as 'gateway' for returnees to be quarantined, and certified.

If I must borrow opinion of the nationals that are reluctant about coming home, one could deduce that they do not trust healthcare situation of their home country.

It is therefore clear that it is not uhuru for African countries to handle their citizens in isolation, and jettison neighbours. Epidemic emergencies will force people to move to countries they deem better for treatment, or medical refuge through porous borders. This is a true scenario that depicts "an injury to one, injury to all".

This is why I believe that all African Students/nationals in Wuhan/China must forthwith work in concert in looking out for themselves. They must continue to share information of emerging safety tips, social welfare logistics and possible official evacuation plan.

African countries must look beyond diplomatic romance with China, come together and take proactive steps that would forestall such disaster.

It is commendable that leaderships of various National Students Unions such as NANS, NUGS and others have been seriously engaging government on behalf of their members presently trapped in Wuhan/China, to ascertain the best way possible for them to remain safe, and be safe.

- OSISIOGU OSIKENYI,
writes from Abuja - Nigeria

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