• July 14th, 2020

Editorial - Plagues and pandemics a part of human history


Plagues and epidemics have devastated humanity throughout its existence dating from prehistoric to modern times. But mankind through innovation and sheer resilience has always survived these crises.
The Black Death that swept through Europe and Asia was so devastating that some historical accounts state that up to half the population of Europe succumbed to the plague. 

There were diseases such as smallpox that were imported to America by European economic migrants in search of greener pastures that equally killed massive numbers of these migrants and with some estimates suggesting up to 90% of indigenous populations were wiped out.

A polio epidemic that started in New York claimed 27 000 lives with another 6 000 Americans succumbing to this epidemic. In recent times the outbreak of HIV, a medical condition that weakens and compromises the body’s immune system, has claimed 35 million lives since it was initially medically detected in 1981 with the bulk of sufferers living in sub-Saharan Africa.

There was also the spread of H1N1 whose widespread transmission was chronicled in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. A pandemic according to WHO experts is an infection that occurs worldwide or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people, with the current example being Covid-19.  While an epidemic, according to WHO, is a disease that infects a lot of people in one geographic area in a short period of time, such as the series of measles outbreaks that affected the USA with 2019 being the worst year for this outbreak.

However, the current Covid-19 pandemic should also be a wake-up call specifically to African governments to invest more in research seeking homegrown solutions, and African researchers deserve to be handsomely supported. But Africa has merely paid lip-service. Many African countries do not have budgets for research and they have left this important component to the Americans, Indians, Chinese and Europeans. America splurges hundreds of billions of US dollars on biomedical research but many African governments spend a pittance on research, endangering the lives of millions of Africans.

Research in the long run safeguards humanity’s very existence because it unlocks important information about diseases, looks at risk factors and gives hints on medical interventions.

It is high time African governments learned the importance of adequate funding for research and science. Africans should put their heads together and learn from the Indians and the Chinese who are excelling in biomedical research and their work being published in reputable medical journals.

Africans should stem the brain drain of its best researchers because this is detrimental to the continent that seems to live hand-to-mouth waiting to be spoon-fed from the research of others.

Africans should start thinking post-corona and if necessary, pool resources so that when the next pandemic or epidemic pays the continent a visit it, we should have a home-grown solution.
Herbs abound in Africa but sadly they are not adequately researched and are weakly regulated.


 


Staff Reporter
2020-03-27 07:54:41 | 3 months ago

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