TOGETHER, WE CAN! Ethiopia leads calls for collective response to Coronavirus

1 Apr 2020

Writing in The Financial Times last week, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, affirmed that “we can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary – but only with global leadership…COVID-19 teaches us that we are all global citizens connected by a single virus that recognises none of our natural or man-made diversity. For the virus, what matters is the fact of our common humanity.”

As we went to press, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute and Federal Ministry of Health had confirmed 29 cases of COVID-19 within Ethiopia, of which two have recovered, two are in intensive care, two have been transferred to their home countries and zero deaths have been registered. Though Ethiopia, much like the rest of Africa, has thus far been spared the most devastating effects of COVID-19, this has not stopped the Government from championing the need for a coordinated response to the pandemic.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Ethiopia has focused its strategy on the need for proactive interventions to curb the potential spread of the virus while putting in place the necessary infrastructure to ensure critical preparedness and capacity within the Health sector. Through the COVID-19 National Ministerial Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, the Government has announced a range of measures since mid-January including:

  • the allocation of an emergency budget
  • the mandatory quarantining of all travellers arriving into Ethiopia for a period of 14 days
  • the closure of schools
  • limiting the majority of the Federal workforce to working from home
  • the postponement of large public gatherings, including sporting events
  • releasing prisoners who had committed minor crimes and those whose probationary period is nearing its end
  • the closure of all bars and nightclubs and
  • the expansion of public information and media campaigns to raise Coronavirus awareness.

In addition to these measures, the Government, in collaboration with the business community and civil society, has recently announced the launch of a nationwide resource mobilisation initiative aimed at sourcing materials for newly established quarantine and treatment centres.

Though this domestic preparedness has won Ethiopia praise in public health circles, all along the Government has maintained the importance of pursuing a joined-up approach with global solidarity at its core. In defence of the global norms of cooperation and interdependence, the Prime Minister has launched a variety of initiatives aimed at galvanising collective action on COVID-19.

Last week, as part of a joint relief initiative for the African continent between Prime Minister Abiy and Chinese billionaire founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, the Government of Ethiopia coordinated the successful distribution of millions of testing kits and personal protective equipment from China to African states.

Ethiopian Airlines plays a vital role in the distribution of medical equipment across Africa

This was yet more evidence of Ethiopia’s longstanding commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism – a fact further illustrated by the indispensable role played by Ethiopian Airlines, the first African airline, in the distribution of the donations to over 50 countries in just 6 days.

Similarly, Prime Minister Abiy held discussions with leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on March 30 via video conference. On the occasion, the Prime Minister underlined the importance of collective leadership as a means of withstanding the challenge of COVID-19.

Even here in the United Kingdom, the Ethiopian approach has won praise, with Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, singling out the Government and Ethiopian Airlines for the decisive role they are playing, at a time of national crisis, in the continuing repatriation of British nationals from across Africa.

In a post on Twitter, the Foreign Secretary said, “Good conversation with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Ali. Thanked him for Ethiopian Airline’s ongoing commitment to supporting Brits across Africa get back home. Also discussed how UKAid can support African partners like Ethiopia in the fight against COVID-19.”

Ethiopia has also led calls for a globally coordinated response to the economic fallout caused by the Coronavirus, arguing that just as the virus knows no borders, neither will the economic challenges that await us. Accordingly, in a 3-point proposal to the G20, on behalf of the African continent, Ethiopia called for a $150 billion COVID-19 Emergency Financing Package, a Global Africa Health Emergency Package to strengthen the WHO and a Debt Resolution and Restructuring Package to bolster low-income economies.

As the famous Ethiopian saying goes, if your neighbour’s house is burning, it is your duty to put out the flames, as one day those flames will visit your home.

At a time of unprecedented global suffering and uncertainty, it is only together as neighbours, bonded by our common humanity and frailty, that we can hope to douse the flames in our world.

Together we can!

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