Coronavirus, Desert Locusts and Media Hysteria

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Two months of sustained distressing news from distant places first in Wuhan province, China about the devastating Coronavirus, now named Covid-19, by the World Health Organization (WHO) has killed about one thousand three hundred people there provide an interesting review of the infertile local elite. The second and equally fearsome, is the invasion of Uganda this week by desert locusts. 

On one extreme pole the media, journalists and their pseudo experts have sought to weave a false narrative that Uganda government, either doesn’t care about its people in China, or is so incompetent in managing epidemics like the coronavirus, and locusts. The Desert Locusts which last invaded Uganda in 1939 is said to have been breeding in the hot Red Sea shorelines, hibernated in the Horn of Africa, where lawless in Djibouti, Yemen, and Somalia meant inability to monitor, manage, or control, until they exploded into Ethiopia and Kenya.

It is important to state that coronavirus, although relatively new, isn’t so much different from those that emerged earlier like Influenza, SARs, cholera, Ebola and Marburg among others virus and respiratory infections. In fact, SARs which attacked China and other Asian countries between 2002-2003 was more aggressive. Coronavirus is a respiratory infection whose incubation is said to be about two weeks before, one can know if they are infected or not, through high resolution medical tests, upon which treatment can begin and hopefully succeed. Although no case has been detected in Uganda, on account of the regular traffic between mainland China and Uganda, there have been attempts through local media elites especially those in print, electronic and social media to spread unresearched information to cause fear, hysteria and hate against government.

Some purveyors of hysterical propaganda have swung from the extreme absurd segregationist end advocating total ban, preventing entry of Chinese into Uganda, and isolating those already here. It is good that government has in collaboration with international experts and Chinese government taken well considered measures to deal with the coronavirus, as a new threat to global order. These propagandists, especially medical professionals should appreciate a dynamic world.   

Yes, Uganda may not have very well-resourced, adequately equipped and manned public health facilities, but has in the recent past ably demonstrated capacity to detect, control, manage and eventually contain several epidemics including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Murburg and Yellow Fever. The relatively good performance in these areas, particularly when Ebola ravaged West Africa and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, should be reason to applaud and believe in Uganda government’s internal capacity to manage disasters.

The media propaganda, that has found its way into uninformed echo chambers, including that of parliament that is demanding that government evacuates few Ugandan students in Wuhan, reasonable as may appear, is really a hollow effort. Uganda, through its ministry of foreign affairs is in close contact with the Chinese government on measures being collectively taken to control the virus within Wuhan as the epicenter, but also in other parts of China.

Foremost, China is very far ahead of Uganda, and a first world industrialized nation that has taken leads innovation in agriculture, human health, military security, and science and technology, that Uganda’s political and media elites don’t need to worry about the security of their citizens living in China.

Additionally, the Chinese government is well-known for taking extreme measures towards dealing with disasters be they natural, security or medical in order to preserve public order, security, health and welfare, and have curved a niche in perfection. Furthermore, any reasonable mind should actually know that the Chinese government is aware that failure or reckless handling of the coronavirus threatens its economy and global standing.

In my considered view, and without appearing insensitive and callous, the best any third world country like Uganda can do, is to work closely with the Chinese government so that their citizens already there are kept safe, in whichever location they maybe than panicking and return probably infected people who may be very difficult to manage. 

Similarly, for the last two months, the media coverage of possible entry of the desert locusts into Uganda mainly bordered on generating and spreading hysteria than help in preparedness. The misguided noises from the media has been of ‘experts’ on everything, but in really nothing to write home about. So far, this first week of the entry of locusts haven’t helped in changing the coverage because it appears the media, most journalists and talking heads appear interested in the salacious gossips of money purportedly already misused than interrogating the extent of the invasion, level of preparedness and if the measures being applied can succeed. 

Having unsuccessfully tried spread fear about the likely devastating consequences by the locusts, and presumed government incompetence, the journalists, and the social media wannabes have now been left to conjure conspiracy theories. Among the absurd narratives is that the locusts haven’t even entered Uganda, but government officials simply want siphon off public money. In their darkest arts, some journalists appear disappointed that huge devastations haven’t happened as yet so they can write selling headlines.