By Lawal Sale Maida
There recent announcement by Nigeria’s minister of health, Dr. Osagie Enahire, that an 18 -man team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors and nurses are expected in the country to join in the fight against the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic have attracted commendations as well as condemnations from cross section of Nigerians.
The Minister had revealed that in addition to the medical team, items such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators are also expected arrive from China as part of assistance from the Chinese community living in the country to the Nigerian government in the fight against the pandemic.
Such gestures and rendering of assistance are not new between countries during emergencies such as the COVID-19 the world is battling with now. But the announcement of the coming assistance from China has elicited apprehensions in some quarters largely due to what I will describe as misinformation in both conventional and social media.
This was in spite of the fact that Nigeria is just one among the about 80 countries selected by the Chinese authorities as beneficiary of medical assistance in fight against the pandemic.
Recently, Chinese billionaire and Chief Executive of Alibaba, Jack Ma, also donated some medical items and protective gears to the Nigerian government as part of his personal contribution to humanity in fight against COVID-19.
It will be recalled that China itself was also assisted by some countries at the peak of its fight against the dreaded scourge.
The fact is that in times of emergency, countries need each other. For instance, during the 2014 Ebola outbreak that ravaged most parts of West Africa, China was among the nations that offered assistance that led to the defeat of the disease in the sub-region. At that time, China supplied resources, including medical experts, scientists as well as medical supplies to help defeat Ebola.
According to one of the Chinese healthcare providers that participated in the exercise in Sierra Leone, Mr. Hongzhou Lu, the major works done by the experts from China to combat Ebola include regular training of the local healthcare providers, attending meetings of WHO experts and visiting treatment centres. These activities, he said, helped in establishing rules and protocols for fighting the cross-border spread of the disease and also for preparation of medical facilities to admit Ebola patients or those suspected of having the disease.
Global pandemic requires global response; this way, a scourge can be defeated and such initiatives are being encouraged by the World Health Organisation. In recent times, the world has witnessed various exchanges of medical personnel, equipment and gears between countries in an effort to defeat the ravaging common enemy that is threatening humanity.
There have been media reports of how Russia sent medical assistance to Serbia, Cuba sent doctors to Italy, Ukraine sent doctors to Italy, United states assisted Ukraine with cash, UAE assisted Pakistan with medical equipment etc. – all as part of global response and camaraderie to help each other in this time of need.
Therefore, the fact that China is sending 18- man team to Nigeria should not be strange and controversial. The world is a global village and people should not be swayed by negativity or become pugnacious to others; the coming of the Chinese medical experts team to Nigeria is certainly not different from similar interventions by other countries.
In fact, there is no time the assistance from the Chinese are needed than now because they were the first victims of COVID-19. The entire world witnessed their suffering, the devastation and loss of lives. The world was also a witness to their efforts and battle against the disease, until they finally out muscled the scourge.
The expertise, courage and determination displayed by the Chinese in the battle to defeat the pandemic is an attestation that they have the expertise to assist others in fight against the disease.
Already, China is supplying many countries with masks, ventilators and medical experts.
Even more, the Director General of Nigeria’s National Orientation Agency, Garba Abari, in a recent radio programme debunked the claims by some Nigerians that the Federal Government is “importing” Chinese doctors to directly take charge of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
He explained categorically that the 18- man medical team will be in Nigeria for the purpose of sharing their experience on how the pandemic was handled in China. Shedding more light on the mission of the Chinese medical experts in Nigeria, Abari said, “Whatever medical team made available to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will be applied to address the peculiar challenges the country is facing in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Similarly, the chairman House Committee on Foreign affairs in the Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Honourable Yusuf Buba Yakub, in a statement called on Nigerians to take into consideration the bilateral relations, friendship and cooperation agreement between Nigeria and other nations of the world, including international conventions and protocols that bind our nation with other countries across the globe.
The chairman further frowned at some pieces of information being shared by Nigerians without regard to their veracity or otherwise. He added that such actions contribute to spreading falsehood, misinformation, panic and anxiety among Nigerians.
— Lawal Sale Maida, a global affairs analyst writes from Abuja (email@example.com)