Benefits from the Coronavirus crisis

Two people look at the same glass and one sees it as half full while the other sees it as half empty; two prisoners in one cell on a dark night peer out of the tiny window and one looks down to the murky ground while the other looks up to see the bright stars; two cross country runners encounter a boulder across the path and one turns back seeing it as a stumbling block while the other sees it as a stepping stone and climbs it to higher levels.

So when you are given a lemon, it is up to you to make lemonade. And so it is with Coronavirus. While it continues to reap lives mercilessly in different countries, the corona crisis is teaching humanity a number of lessons.

For the underdeveloped world, the immediate gain is an improvement in cleanliness. Some years earlier, the campaign to promote handwashing was scorned at or the best laughed off by the elite. Now everyone has learned that frequent handwashing is a matter of life and death. If you are in a situation where you cant use soap and water, a hand sanitizer is essential. So finally we can be sure of everyone having clean hands in the future, thousands of lives will be saved every year as a result.

Of course, proper hand sanitation brings a huge benefit of cutting diarrheal infections to near nil. These are a big killer and Uganda’s districts bordering DR Congo have been enjoying this benefit for over a year, courtesy of the Ebola outbreak in Congo. Handwashing was enforced as one of the anti-Ebola measures and presto – diarrheal cases vanished almost overnight. May the rest of Uganda and Africa also reap this dividend from clean hands!

African people especially the elite are learning to eat right and will hopefully maintain proper eating habits after the corona crisis. Many locals on getting more money adopt the wrong eating habits, eating more meat and drinking more alcohol. Now they have to eat fruits and vegetables in order to get the requisite Vitamins in line with the anti-corona diet advisory. Non-communicable diseases, therefore, are bound to reduce post-corona.

Sadly but interestingly, the African big men and women are not stuck in their countries with the rest of the hales citizens. Should they fall sick, they have to rely on the under-equipped, run-down health facilities and put their lives in the hands of our unmotivated medical staff. This, unless there is something terribly wrong with their heads, is motivation enough for them to embark on developing decent social infrastructure locally, especially the hospitals.

The coronavirus crisis is also a wakeup call to Africa’s leaders who have not yet taken the provision of national health insurance. It is not a matter of richesse but has more to do with purposeful leadership. Kenya under Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda under Paul Kagame has gone a long way in covering most of their citizens with health insurance or all of their citizens with the most insurable aspects of health cover respectively. These countries are not all that richer than Uganda. Indeed Rwanda is poorer than Uganda. During the 2016 electoral campaigns, a presidential candidate who had just been retired as prime minister startled the public saying the government was spending $300million per year on treatment for a lucky few abroad. This is more than a trillion shillings. If it was invested in national health insurance plus members’ contributions, Uganda could certainly join the civilized nations where sickness of a person or their relative does not encroach on their savings, or as happens in many cases, people borrowing to pay for treatment!

Coronavirus is also offering us an opportunity to pilot a rollout of the changing workplace due to technological advancements in Uganda. At the end of the partial lockdown, some people will realize that they don’t need to go back to the office. And more will follow. Then we shall realize how much we have been losing in terms of time and transport costs.

Our tendency to let the future take care of itself is also under assault. It is unlikely that many people will continue with that style “fuka tunywe abaana balikola ezaabwe” meaning that we better make merry today and let the children sort themselves out. The same applies to the government. For example, Uganda should be having one and a half-billion dollars in the petroleum fund which was not supposed to be spent without express sanction by parliament. Now there is none. Such reckless disregard for procedure when we see money like village drunkards is unlikely to continue. This is a sobering virus indeed.

And now that touching one’s face has become dangerous. The nasty mannerism by a few people of nose-picking will disappear.

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