I started this blog having lost five friends and family members (including my father) since January of this year. Their deaths have been attributed to “pneumonia” the codeword for COVID in Tanzania. Last night a close friend in Moshi was grieving the loss of his brother and sister-in-law. They died within days of each other, “pneumonia” was mentioned. They leave behind two young children.
President Magufuli in recent days has admitted Tanzania has a COVID problem which is a start. However there is much in the way of mixed messaging and stoking of division. For example, President Magufuli claims COVID is a “white mans” disease and vaccines are not to be trusted. In a country where public health awareness with regards to COVID is pitifully lacking this is a dangerous message. Tanzania cannot be a lone nation and not vaccinate its citizens. Eventually, President Magufuli will give in but changing the public’s mind having fed all this propaganda is going to be one hell of a challenge.
Almost everyone in my network has responded with, “I had no idea about the situation in Tanzania”. Why have we become this insular? I don’t know the answer myself. What is frustrating is our governments approach which is embarrassing to say the least. The G7 and our commitment to the Commonwealth provides a powerful platform to advocate change. Instead, our man in Dar-es-Salaam, David Concar (British Ambassador to Tanzania) placated President Magufuli by attending an official event and not bothering to wear a mask. Meanwhile, the European Union Office in Dar-Es-Salaam gave 27 million Euros in COVID relief funds, to a government that continues to deny the virus exists. Go figure! The white mans face masks are not safe but Magufuli has no qualms accepting his shilling.
We have to hold our government and institutions such as the European Union accountable. None of us will be free of COVID otherwise. We have been told the virus is mutating. The Tanzanian government stopped testing in April 2020. Given the increase in deaths attributed to “pneumonia” since October, who knows what mutation of COVID we are dealing with in Tanzania. The virus does not recognise borders…