The New Humanitarian (formerly the UN’s IRIN) cites a US Embassy Tanzania statement about Covid-19 (C19): “Despite limited official reports, all evidence points to exponential growth of the epidemic in Dar and other locations in Tanzania.”
Think about the first clause, and how it relates to the second, and you may get more than a hint of contradiction. There is no evidence whatsoever pointing to exponential growth of C19 in Dar, Tanzania, East Africa or anywhere else on the continent.
The authors depend on a handful of anonymous ‘doctors’, and on Twitter, to pad out their article. They allude to ‘secret burials’, something we heard about during earlier outbreaks of media scaremongering, such as the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
One source says they don’t have enough PPE, another says they do. One says that people are not going to hospitals, which is nothing new. Nor is it even unambiguously worrying; it has long been recognized that hospitals in outbreak areas are among the most likely places to be exposed to Ebola, for example.
Another source says there is no free flow of information, and that’s preventing people from making informed choices. Major international healthcare programs have been run in Tanzania and other developing countries, with little international concern about the issues of free flow of information or informed choices!
Haven’t The New Humanitarians heard of mass male circumcision, injectable Depoprovera, healthcare associated outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C? Have they ever read any healthcare Service Provision Assessments for African countries, showing how often running water and other hygiene facilities are absent?
The majority of people in poor countries can’t stay at home, work from home or even distance themselves from other people, especially in cities. That’s the way developing countries are. If Magufuli advised people to do any of these things, there would be a lot more confusion than there is now.
Some genuine insights into C19 have been made by Michael Fumento, who has written about many of the major outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics over the last several decades. His recent article entitled ‘The Swedish alternative: Coping with a virus while preserving livelihoods and liberties’ is a good start.
Tanzania and Sweden probably have little in common, but the mainstream media can’t condemn Sweden loudly enough, even though they have full access to data and information; perhaps The New Humanitarian and others can wait until they have access to data and information before publishing sensationalist articles based on gossip and innuendo?
The New Humanitarian article admits: “Amid the swirl of rumours and the absence of reliable news, many businesses have closed their doors. But there is public support for the government’s position not to issue a stay-at-home order.”
An article from Tanzania about Magufuli allows him to explain what he is doing, without comment. Some might say the media in Tanzania have to be careful what they publish. However, media here in the UK has chosen to be especially careful, and none of the more liberal press, particularly The Guardian and the BBC, would dare to deviate from a narrow set of approved mantras.
Some of the conservative media, such as The Telegraph and The Spectator, have taken a more enlightened stance, advising that vulnerable people be protected from C19 and other conditions, but without closing down the entire economy and scaring the shit out of everyone.
Now is not the time for The New Humanitarian to echo and manufacture ‘news’. Tanzania has refused to give in to the international press, institutions and others who have been ‘advising’ them for decades. So let’s wait and see who is right, and not try to bring about the kind of panic and subsequent damage we purport to warn about.