Samson’s Take: CoronaChaos, easy spread in free food?

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All over the world, everything is being done to contain the spread of the life-shuttering Covid-19. Over 2.2 million people have been infected and over 150,000 killed by the virus. Africa accounts for only 19,000 of the infections and only about 1,000 of the deaths.

Countries with the best health systems have recorded in a day near Africa’s total 1,000 deaths in two months. Some are ignorantly celebrating this. Fact is, the more a country tests, the more it discovers, and the better placed it is to avoiding the spread. Africa has the least record of tests.

Ghana, said to have done the most tests of some 50,000 so far, may not have to boast because, in Europe, some are testing 10,000 or more a day. This is a respiratory disease, so when a patient must die because he/she cannot breathe, ventilators may give life. A journalist who got the virus in Zimbabwe died because there was no ventilator.

Our health authorities are praying against critical cases because there will be no ventilators to cater for up to 300 cases. Our High Commissioner to the UK is safe, thanks to a ventilator. The UK’s Boris Johnson is back from ICU and he is mobilising 10,000 of the life-saving machines. It is not surprising the WHO is projecting Africa could be the next epicentre of Covid-19 with 300,000 deaths and 30 million Africans to be pushed into poverty.

Draconian laws and orders have been made with lockdowns and state of emergencies to fight the pandemic. Yesterday, three reckless men were thrown into jail for the least prison term of four years for endangering some fifty lives in the name of a church service. Over 400 people face similar fate for allegedly flouting measures intended to protect them from getting the virus.

But are State officials and politicians endangering the lives of several hundred and thousands of the poor and homeless not equally guilty of the offence? Footages of people falling on each other while trying to catch food parcels thrown at them from the top of trucks only demonstrate most reckless conduct serving as fertile grounds for an even faster spread of Covid-19. Experts fear this is how Africa might explode with the disease.

The State is apparently spending a ¢2 million each day to feed 400,000 people in lockdown areas in Accra and Kumasi. This is no rocket science, insist on strict compliance with social distancing protocols if we cannot deliver the food packages more decently and to homes for those with homes.

This same State chose this period to flatten what over 1,000 slum-dwellers called homes without the thought of alternative temporary lodging for them at a time public school facilities are empty, and those rendered homeless will not be granted their cry for permission to return to their hometowns and villages where they are assured of food and a roof over their heads. It has taken scathing public criticism for shade-providing and not home-making tents to be erected for them.

Our Constitution in Chapter 6 enjoins the State to promote oneness, loyalty to Ghana and equity in sharing of the national cake. Nevertheless, every government has been guilty of gross abuse of incumbency that also discriminates and polarizes. You would have thought there will not be a wind of it in this global humanitarian crisis created by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Yes, we are in the silly-season and politicians will throw out allegations including factual situations that may be difficult to prove, but we must demand strict proof and verify before publication when people allege food meant for the vulnerable is being distributed as though it was bought with money from a political party’s members’ contributions to serve its members and not money from the national treasury. Ignore what may be fake complaints circulating on social media.

But what did the Gender Minister expect when she handed bags of rice and other supplies to the NPP’s Mohammed Arthur to distribute to 100 people in his constituency? He advertised to the world that he had a better package for delegates he expects to vote to retain him and eventually as their MP. Why did NDC MPs not also get this package for their constituents?

The partisan-led NADMO just realised, only yesterday, that it shouldn’t have allowed an NPP parliamentary aspirant to “volunteer” to assist food distribution in Alfred Oko Vanderpuije’s constituency? We may not be able to stop individual politicians from continuing to brand food they distribute even with money from their Common Fund. But in this national humanitarian exercise, let’s stick to 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to “avoid all appearances of evil”. In law we say, “justice must satisfy the appearance of justice”. Meanwhile, just stay at home!

Samson Lardy ANYENINI
April 18, 2020

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