Mar. 2, 2020 (GIN) – The coronavirus is spreading fast beyond its China borders, with cases now rising in parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Some 90,000 people have been infected in over 65 countries and 3,000 worldwide have died of Covid-19. As soon as the virus emerged, the World Health Organization named thirteen countries in Africa (Algeria, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) at greatest risk of acquiring the virus, due to established direct links or frequent travel to and from China. Yet few active cases have been reported in sub-Saharan Africa so far. “This is the question that everyone is asking,” said Amadou Alpha Sall, head of the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal. “Whether it’s a matter of faulty detection, climatic factors or simple fluke, the remarkably low rate of coronavirus infection in African countries, with their fragile health systems, continues to puzzle — and worry.” Thumbi Ndung’u, director of a Durban-based research centre, SANTHE, said: “I don’t think anybody knows why Africa appears to be unscathed, possibly because there isn’t much travel to that particular part of China from Africa – back and forth. Yet according to Quartz Africa, some 4,600 African students may be unwilling exiles, unable to return home from China for fear of contagion. Countries keeping nationals abroad include Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya. Ghana has no plans yet to repatriate its nationals. The National Union of Ghana Students called for the immediate evacuation of Ghanaians in Wuhan. Uganda has reportedly denied repatriation to an estimated 67 Ugandan students in Wuhan. Last week, dozens of African students staged a silent protest at Wuhan University of Science and Technology holding signs saying please, please, please bring us home. In Nigeria, local TV ran a video plea from an unnamed Nigerian student. Hundreds of Kenyans are stuck in China. Foreign affairs secretary Macharia Kamau says that students are “safe where they are.” Kenya has only 1 doctor per 5,000 citizens and spends only 4.7 of its GDP on healthcare – well below the global average. South Africa will be the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to evacuate its citizens from China and affected areas. Kopo Oromeng, a Botswana student at the University of Delaware started a Change.org petition to “Evacuate African Students from Wuhan, Hubei” “What does the AU stand for, if it cannot stand for the lives of black young students at a time of need? “Our African students in Wuhan do not deserve to be stranded for so long. We are their voice in this tragedy,” commented a signee.
Feb. 3, 2020 (GIN) – She’s your pediatrician. He’s your surgeon. She’s a civil engineer. He has a doctorate. She’s an Emmy Award winner. He was a Chicago Bear. They’re Nigerian-Americans who have set down roots in Dallas, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, Phoenix and Houston – the latter of which has the largest Nigerian population outside Brazil and Africa. They’re the largest group among African immigrants in the U.S. – about 327,000. They’re a tiny portion of the U.S. population, but they rank as the most successful ethnic group in the U.S. Yet, on the eve of Black History month, the President callously expanded a travel ban that effectively bars Nigerians from obtaining visas to immigrate here permanently. The new restrictions will not apply to tourist, business, or other nonimmigrant travel. But for the large Nigerian diaspora in the US, the policy will be devastating to a community with deep family and cultural ties to their home country. Nigerians expressed disbelief and anger after the Trump administration announced the policy, which takes effect Feb. 21. The decision affects Nigeria Eritrea, Sudan, and Tanzania as well as Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar. Additionally, immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania will be excluded from the diversity visa lottery, which grants green cards to as many as 50,000 people every year.
Many Nigerians wondered why they specifically were targeted, when many other countries might pose similar security threats. Amaha Kassa, head of African Communities Together, which advocates for African immigrants and their families, told reporters that at the group’s latest meeting in New York City, dozens of Nigerians were asking one question: “Why single us out?” Immigrant advocates say it’s based on discriminatory motivations. For Okorafor Chimedu, a 29-year-old teacher in Warri, Nigeria, with a university degree and relatives already in the United States, his chances now to join them appear slim. “I hope the two nations will rectify their differences soon so that the ban can be lifted,” he said to a reporter. “We need each other to progress in this world. No man is an island of his own.” Omar Jadwat of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project suggested the ban was imposed because the excluded countries don’t share enough information so that (we) can vet their citizens when they arrive. The so-called “Muslim ban,” already affects citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela and North Korea. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, sharply disputed the U.S. move. “In our view, (the ban) was not well thought out but based largely on negative narratives spread by naysayers. I know we are working very well with our neighbors, the EU and the U.S. to ensure that terrorism is addressed.” “Our advice to the U.S. is that it should have a rethink on the issue because any travel ban is bound to affect investment and growth in the country and those who will be affected are the most vulnerable people in Nigeria.” In a separate development, China has halted the issuance of visas to Nigerians citing their effort to control the spread of the coronavirus in the Asian country.