It is a stark, a startling and unsettling contrast. One country has so little it feels it must do everything. The other has so much it doesn’t feel obliged to do anything.
First published in October 2020.
On the western edge of the mighty African continent, there is small Senegal, just under 200,000 square kilometers, with a GDP per capita of $2,700 and healthcare expenditure of less than 5% of GDP. Oh, and nearly half its population of 14.7 million people lives below the poverty line. And it has just seven doctors for every 100,000 people.
Some 8,000 kilometres away is the rich vastness of the United States — 9,833,517 sq km — with a GDP per capita of $59,500 and the ability to spend 17.1% of GDP on healthcare. In the United States, 15.1% of the population lives below the poverty line and there are 295 physicians per 100,000 people, as of 2016.
As of early September, Senegal had fewer than 14,000 coronavirus cases and only 284 deaths.
The United States was heading past the 200,000 deaths mark at the same time.
Not too long ago, Foreign Policy magazine’s COVID-19 Global Response Index rated Senegal as second only to New Zealand in its handling of the pandemic.
Senegal was the fourth African country to confirm a positive COVID-19 case on March 2 and it quickly imposed a curfew and restricted all domestic travel between the country’s 14 regions to delay internal spread.
As the BBC’s Mayeni Jones and Naomi Scherbel-Ball have reported, the Senegalese authorities rapidly embarked on an effort to inform the people that they shouldn’t confuse coronavirus symptoms with malaria.
In April, Senegal’s top musicians, including Youssou N’Dour, joined the public service messaging effort. The song Daan Corona, meaning “Defeat coronavirus” in the local Wolof language, was the result. It tells people to stay home and wash their hands. Colourful murals on the walls of Senegal’s oldest university tell students to share coronavirus prevention techniques with classmates, rather than the virus.
As for the United States, the tragic situation is pretty well known.
On Sunday, an infected President Trump even left his hospital bed to drive by his supporters, complete with Secret Service agents. His security detail’s wellbeing seemed of no concern to the president of the United States. Sadly, it has been like that the whole way through, ever since the WHO declared a global pandemic on March 11.
The contrast between Senegal and the United States is stark. More to the point, it is telling.
Senegal has so little it must do more to protect its people. The US has so much it feels it can be wanton.🔷
Rashmee Roshan Lall, Journalist, World affairs columnist.
🗳️ Donald Trump