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  • GA-334-2821 Accra, Ghana
  • +254 700 614290/+233 54 109 8521/+223 95 07 07 09

COVID-19: A CALL FOR A ROBUST MEDICAL DIPLOMACY

CORONAVID-19: A CALL FOR A ROBUST MEDICAL DIPLOMACY


Alphonsus J. Ndoh

The Covid-19 has set itself as the greatest threat to the whole world. It can be metaphorically considered as the WW3. Although there are neither Allies nor Axis Powers as they were in the WW2, but both are fighting against the common enemy, coronavirus. Considering this nature of the pandemic, and its rapidly spread all over the world, especially in the highly sophisticated health systems in Europe, Asia and the United States of America. It presents the never before neediness of the health and medical diplomacy to control the situation that is now threating not only the poor countries as usual contagious disease outbreaks do. Nevertheless, the fatality of the Covid-19 cannot be de-emphasized in China, the second largest economies in the world, Japan the cradle of technology, Singapore, the spot of innovation and hygiene, the US the largest  economy and the world’s most powerful nation on earth, Saudi Arabia, one the wealthiest nations in the world, the United Kingdom with its reliable and excellent healthcare system, and the EU with all it has achieved medically, economically and developmentally.

Disturbingly enough, the pandemic has penetrated the fragile medical systems in some parts of Asia and Africa. The aid-providers are the aid-solicitor now, not necessarily to build their infrastructures or create economic prosperity as the aid normally does, but to use MD in combating the Covid-19 that is controllably spreading. So, what is the aid that is urgently needed by all? What are the roles of every country in the comity of nation towards this common whipper (Covid19)?

The answer is to increase, and effectively use health and medical diplomacy among the nations. It is, however, means in this context, medical, clinical with their related collaboration and sharing information to uproot and uproot the virus from the World. Medical diplomacy or MD is the concept, which persuades the members of the comity of nations to support the efforts of their counterparts and international organizations like WHO to defeat disease; Covid-19. Besides, Global Health Diplomacy (GHD) as it is at times acronymized as the international and foreign relations practice through which the governments along with Non-State actors medically coordinate to address global health issues such as Ebola, HIV-AIDS and Coronavirus.

Academically, its nomenclature may suggest that it solely falls under Political Science and International Relations. However, in practice, it is a multi-disciplinary subject that brings several areas of studies together including, Medicine, Law, Politics, Management, Sociology, Economics, Trade Policy and others. This is why, in order for a nation to institute an effective medical diplomacy, it should not only focus on conventional diplomats or medical doctors or healthcare professionals. It may need a conglomerate of different specialists from other related disciplines to actualize its objectives.
It is worth mentioning that many foreign missions do focus on conventional political concerns, education, culture and trade. Embassies and foreign missions have a special attaché for these interests. However, it hardly heard about the medical attaché at foreign representations in the host nations.  

Importance of Medical Diplomacy:

It is noteworthy to state that medical diplomacy (MD) is very paramount in today’s international relations and politics due to its never before globalized nature of goods and services that leads to never before the movement of the people. A medical crisis in the Far East may easily affect the West, Africa and the rest of the world in no time. For example, 2014 Ebola outbreaks in the West African countries; Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leon affected the United States and many other African nations in a very short period of time. Equally so, the Covid19 that emerged in Wuhan had affected more than 160 countries in less than six months. International trades and transportation had been seriously wounded by the outbreak. Paradoxically, allies are restricting the movement of their friends in fear of the pandemic.

The United States’ President J. Donald Trump suspended all fights from Europe excluding the United Kingdom and later on, it had been included in the suspension. This is very strange in the US-EU or Europe relations. However, the decision was made by Washington because of the gravity and rapid spread of the virus with its advert impacts on peace, security, trade and economies, basic human rights and civil liberties, it might even be considered as the WW3 thought there are neither Allies nor Axis powers. But the common enemy is the Covid 19, which medical diplomacy being played to defeat. Based on the above, the medical diplomacy is significant for contemporary foreign relations for several reasons. Some are as follows:

Since the early 1990s, when Harvard University’s pundit, Joseph Nye, Jr., introduced the cotemporary concept of soft power in his popularized book “Bound to Lead:  The Changing Nature of American Power as opposed to hard power, medical diplomacy has been playing a major role in addressing many burning international political issues in lieu of radical diplomatic business. It shows the goodwill of the giver to the receiver. According to Marrogi and Al-Dulaimi in their article – Medical Diplomacy in Achieving US. Global Strategic Objectives- published by Join Force Quarterly (2014) “Although the concept of soft power is not universally embraced, using economic, cultural, scientific and healthcare resources can create a dominant soft power, when carefully applied, might generate favorable behavior from other nations and their leaders and build enduring partnerships to promote regional and global security’.

It solidifies and strengthens the national, regional and continental efforts to address medical and health crises such as Ebola, HIV-AIDS and Coronavirus.

It may help to reduce and de-escalate political tensions between/ among the nations.

It is more selfless tool within the realm of politics to serve the humanity. Unlike trades and politics between/among the nations, which are mainly based on interests with disregarding some social and humanitarian concerns such as pollution and political crises because of the interest of politically heavy-weight nations.

It indirectly helps to destress local healthcare and medical infrastructures.

It leads to sustainable development growth. A healthy world is a wealthy globe, and a wealthy globe is bound for sustainable development and shared happiness and prosperity.

It helps to secure the future of globalization. Covid 19 has clearly illustrated that pandemic is the biggest threat to globalization even between and among friends and allies. Donal Trump’s pronouncement to suspend all flights from Europe including the United Kingdom serves a great lesson for magnitude of healthcare crisis against internationalization and globalization.

It has been pointed out by Suleman, Ali and Kerr in their article ‘ Health diplomacy : a new approaches to Muslim World’ published by Globalization and Health,  that the nicest field of health diplomacy provides a political framework which aims to deliver the dual goals of improved health in target populations and enhanced governmental relations between collaborating countries.

Despite the popularity of medical diplomacy in managing international health issues, Africa is lagged behind in terms of fostering Intra-African health medical diplomacy. The continent still heavily depends on the external medical aid in during the health crisis such as Ebola and, now Covid-19. It is however, imperative for the African Union and its sub-regional organizations consolidate their efforts and cordially coordinate medically and financially to address pandemic and medical crises on the Continent. This does not only serve the health sector, rather it plays a vital role in the African integration, trades, socio-political solidarity, self-reliance and more importantly swift response to health problems before the global engagement that requires in most often lots bureaucratic processes. Intra-African diplomacy is very paramount for the Continent, it helps to contain pandemics, such as the CORONAVID-19

    Alphonse J Ndoh

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