Surprising COVID news from Africa

Jan 29, 2021
Category: World News

At the start of the pandemic, we were worried. Like many others, we were concerned about how COVID would affect us and our own families and communities, but we also feared for our overseas project partners. How would communities in Rwanda, Zambia and DR Congo handle a virus pandemic without many of the medical and technological advantages the UK takes for granted? We actually prayed that God would have mercy on our friends and their nations.

Well, God was merciful indeed and may have had some help with wise decisions from people on the ground. This month, a piece of research published by the Lowy Institute in Australia ranks all three of the nations we were most concerned about in the top 40 globally for their handling of COVID. DR Congo is ranked 39th, Zambia 29th and Rwanda as high as 6th. It's worth noting that other African nations have also performed very well. Togo, Tunisia, Mozambique, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Madagascar all appear in the top 40. The UK is ranked 66th.

The obvious question is how these results have been possible. There will be time for a fuller investigation of that point later but, as a Rwandan news outlet has observed, there are likely to be a number of contributory factors:

  • Small populations: Rwanda in particular has a very small population, compared to the UK (for example). With fewer people, the chances of infection are lower.
  • Cohesive societies: While nations in the global north tend to be fragmented, emphasising the nuclear family, African societies are (on the whole) better at establishing wider support networks, outside of the immediate family unit. So, Rwanda has had no problem in mobilising a large number of community health workers to help prevent and treat the virus.
  • Capable institutions: As much as we are (rightly) proud of the NHS, the UK and the US certainly do not have a monopoly on medical and technological excellence. Rwanda has been highly innovative in its medical services, using robots to reduce contact between patients and medics at treatment centres, and to screen air travellers for COVID.

We praise God for his mercy and for the wisdom of African decision makers. And, not for the first time, we must ask whether there are lessons the UK can learn from Rwanda.

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