Last week I was interviewed about my experience in Liberia during the ebola epidemic as it was tied in with the recently deployed Oxford vaccine. To get straight to it, the video is below.
Working in Uganda for two years provided much distance and perspective from working in other African countries. Djibouti, Tanzania, Liberia all have their unique and specific interests, goals and agendas yet share resources, cultures, languages and economies.
Interlinked through all these are also the fabric of well-being. Health. Mutual and shared prosperity. When COVID arrived in Uganda in March of 2019 I had some early predictions about how this would play out. Working in areas like urban and rural Bangladeshi landscape you can see what effects and direct impacts are on populations ranked as poor or ultra-poor by the UN, WFP, UNDP, UNICEF and others. You see commonalities. What these countries lack in national infrastructure they make up for in societal and cultural self-awareness. Countries who had necessarily had to access sustainable development goal oriented projects were able to pivot more quickly due to their immersion and proximity to these practices. They were also able to absorb the information about a new viral threat much like every other natural disaster they have faced. Floods, droughts, locusts, neglected tropical diseases also do not include global climate change, an non-existent middle class, and ongoing challenges for transparent political reform. Covid was just another day in Africa.
I was in Uganda for a year and a half working on the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP). It was a State Dept funded program that was being administered and operated by AFRICOM, one of the commands belonging to the Dept of Defense. This program was designed for outcomes related to possessing the capability of rapidly deploying a Ugandan Battle Groups (UGABAGs are like modular USMC MEU’s that go our for 6 month rotations before being switched out).
Covid struck and we had to modify our schedules to adapt to the new quarantine protocols (travel, video-conferencing, scheduling, etc.). I found myself in Uganda with some 20 years of overseas experiences in developing countries with limited resources, opportunities or life support. I had seen several projects conducted in Bangladesh that were small in scope and ambition but yielded tremendous impacts.
I worked a small chain linking the topics of gender, vulnerable populations, economy, culture and WASH through the use of masks. Liberia we mobilized the community. There were many similarities and overlaps.
The up-shot of much of this is that many valuable lessons-learned were achieved vis-a-vis at the expense of human life. To mitigate or blunt the force and impact of a novel disease we developed lessons-learned and devised what-if scenario’s. Implementation of these lessons and protocols from recent calamities would reduce pressure on human suffering and impact other related sectors such as economy, tech, global climate change and the rest.