The First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame says the New Coronavirus outbreak has had an ‘unparalleled’ impact on countries and economies and it will require improved collaborations and solidarity to fully recover from the damage the pandemic has caused.
Mrs. Kagame made the observation this Friday as she joined global leaders in a virtual summit aimed at addressing ‘The Rise of Global Health Diplomacy’
The 9th Meridian Summit is a platform that strengthens engagement between the U.S. and the world through diplomacy, global leadership and culture.
The first digital summit of its kind was attended by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, OECD Deputy Secretary-General, WHO Assistant Director-General, David Rubenstein, Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S Kirsten Hillman, Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, and Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick among other panelists.
In her speech, Mrs Kagame said despite the surfacing of an untimely pandemic which caught everyone off guard, the pandemic has left the world with new lessons, opportunities and collaboration of citizens and governments.
She said that even though the global pandemic has robbed the world of an essential pillar of humanity, and many lives have been lost, so many communities around the globe have shown incredible resilience in the face of extreme adversity.
“We owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to mount a vigorous collective fight in order to restore normalcy, and hope for the future of our humanity,” Mrs Kagame said.
Even with the pandemic affecting many sectors of life especially the global education system, Mrs Kagame said that there has been some opening to new opportunities that hold great promise for a leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), with the potential to reboot economies and fast-track development dividends.
For example, the First Lady said Rwanda’s early digital strategy and programmes have proven invaluable in setting the stage to multiply the country’s efforts towards upgrading technological skills and categorizing Rwanda as an e-government.
With such an experience left by Covid-19, Mrs Kagame called for a collective approach, to reverse the destructive course of climate change, and its negative impact on biodiversity, other pandemics will follow COVID-19.
“In Rwanda, we believe that we cannot be healthy in an unhealthy environment, but also that we are not an island unto ourselves,” Mrs Kagame said noting that the COVID19 pandemic is a sobering reminder of just how connected we all are and how the world stood up as one to overcame this formidable enemy.
In order to see the world overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, Mrs Kagame used a quote from a wise and timeless African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”
“We need to build national, regional and international solidarity to overcome the unparalleled impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced us all, to reimagine old structures and has accelerated the need for innovative diplomacy efforts, Mrs Kagame said.
By leveraging partnerships among governments, the scientific and research communities, private sector, innovators and civil society, Mrs Kagame said this can promote the sharing of evidence, and best practices to fight the pandemic, revamp economies, build trust, and strengthen the spirit of solidarity in these very trying times.
An example, Mrs Kagame gave was the case of regional collaboration in Africa where when the first case of COVID-19 emerged in Africa, institutions within the African Union convened to study the policies and actions, under the leadership of the Africa CDC developed common approaches to handling the pandemic and taskforces were established at regional level, to mobilize financial and technical resources, as well as to mitigate social and economic impact.
On the international level, this collaboration has emerged in the COVAX-COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access, being a multilateral initiative with 172 countries committed to provide vaccines to all countries regardless of ability to pay, to cover 20 percent of their population.
Mrs Kagame took the opportunity to share Rwanda’s response to the COVID-19 by highlighting efforts in health, education, technology and climate change, stating that the pandemic has taught Rwanda that the health sector can no longer solve health issues alone.
“In Rwanda, our strategy from the onset, was to lean towards a coordinated, and multi-sectoral approach, in order to stand a worthy chance, at containing this fast spreading pandemic,” Mrs Kagame said.
This, she said was done by government setting up a National Crisis Committee of key Ministries, and a COVID-19 Joint Task Force to guide preparedness and response plan, setting up localized lock-downs, proper care in treatment centres,
Others include monitoring the pandemic through use of trained community agents, health workers and high-tech robot technology to administer temperature checks, monitor patient status, and keep medical records of COVID-19 patients.
“By the way, should you plan to travel to Rwanda, be ready for similar robots stationed at the airport to welcome you!” Mrs Kagame said and noted that “As a result of these anti-Covid-19 measures, 96% of close to 5,000 positive cases diagnosed have recovered, though a total of 34 patients sadly passed away”
At the summit, Executive Vice President of Pfizer, Sally Susman who discussed the vital role of the private sector in the face of Covid-19, noted that there is an urgent need to connect health and finance ministers to facilitate access to medicine
“It will take a multilateral approach and willingness to reimagine how business, government and civil society work together to shape how we respond to the biggest health crisis of our lives,” Susman said.
Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) Deputy Secretary-General stated that “Health Diplomacy” is a new term and its top of mind for every single government in the world but cautioned that: “if we do compare our experiences across borders, there is a better chance of fighting the Covid-19 virus, finding a cure and fairly distributing a vaccine,”
U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams revealed that the good news is there are many less likely to die of Covid-19 as researchers are approaching the finish line for the vaccine, though the bad news is cases are going up.