Commentary: Why are we indifferent? - Ahmed Manjang
Commentary: 22 August | Ahmed Manjang
On the eve of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in The Gambia, I made a tongue-in-cheek comment that corruption will kill more people in The Gambia than COVID-19, well how apt?
In recent days we have seen a sudden sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, rise in several deaths associated with COVID-19 and also lack of preparedness by our Government. With billions of Dalasis pumped into The Gambia's economy to help us fight COVID-19 pandemic, one wonders where all the monies have gone. Then we were greeted with a bill of quantity where the funds were spent, and for a moment we all went frothy on our mouths, and as usual deafening silence follows after few days, how could that be? Afterwards, what did we do? After a few days, we were all distracted by partisan politics, insults, character assignations, and the list goes on.
Then honourable minister of health went to the parliament and informed our lawmakers about the level of corruption in his ministry, what did we do about it? We did nix and continue to go after each other instead of holding the executive and the legislature to account. Our focus should have been making sure our law makers launch an enquiry to find those corrupt officials within the health ministry and make sure those are found wanting face the law, nothing happened, and we don't care, do we?
As a nation, we have never been so divided; we are divided politically,
religiously, regionally even divided about a virus that knows no race, tribe, class or party colours. One would have thought the emergence of COVID-19 for once we will unite us against a common invisible enemy, hell no. Our division, unfortunately, is making our effort to fight this deadly virus even more difficult.
The failure of our Government in handling the COVID-19 pandemic is beyond logic, they failed us miserably in their responsibilities but sadder still, where is the alternative leadership from the opposition? The Government, instead of admitting to their failings and embark on quick remedial actions, they are hellbent on massive coverups and misinformation campaign to deflect our attention from the realities on the ground. It is clear the general public is poorly informed about COVID-19, it begs to believe there is still a sizable number of Gambians who do not even understand COVID-19 and its existence much more take preventive measures seriously. Instead of the opposition engage in feeding the general population with counterbalance accurate information, they are also involved in more vile misinformation to score cheap political points.
The latest manifestation of Gambian's indifference to their plight is the closure of Serekunda General hospital. The government decision to convert that busy health facility to exclusively COVID-19 treatment centre is a callous and dangerous move. What is going to happen to thousands of patients of other illnesses who frequent this busy health post to seek medical intervention? Where is the public outcry about this dangerous, irresponsible decision by our health ministry? Anywhere but the Gambia, this reckless decisions will trigger public uproar that will force the Government to rethink their choice. As days passed by, it looks like the Government is going to get away with another massive blunder that is going to cost lives.
What happed to the Ndeban Clinic project? We know TAF Holdings refurbished part of this health facility as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility to complement the effort of the Government; unfortunately, the Government once again baulked on their responsibilities and failed to make Ndeban clinic ready in time as a treatment centre for COVID-19 patients.
Wise commentators will tell you that; leaders are a real reflection of the people they lead, this statement can't be more accurate in the case of The Gambia. The lack of empathy and selfishness being manifested by our president and his cabinet is all too familiar within the general population. The Gambia is in a sorry state, and no amount of prayers can save us, our only hope right now is the goodwill of the Gambians in the diaspora.
At the moment, our fragile healthcare system is broken if not wholly. We are not doing enough tests, data is hard to come by, not enough contact tracing, no proper isolation of positive cases and their contacts which means the number of potential positives in the community could be anybody's guess. This lack of appropriate mechanisms in place to deal with the pandemic could only compound our fight against this deadly and highly infectious virus. Time for self-evaluation, let us all ask ourselves these few questions; what are we doing to advance humanity; what can we do to help curb the spread of the virus and avoid an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. While we continue to hold the executive and the legislature to account, let us all take our responsibilities seriously to save ourselves from ruin.
Ahmed Manjang is a Senior, Laboratory Technologist/Research coordinator at the King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.