Covid in Africa – A Revealing Interview with Marsali Campbell in Uganda
There is a classic scene in The West Wing season 4 where a speech writer, Will Bailey, tells is asked by President Bartlett “why is a Kundalese (a fictional African country) life worth more than an American life to me?”. Bailey boldly replies, “I don’t sir, but it is”. That scene came to mind yesterday when I had this conversation with Marsali Campbell in Uganda. The Western Media (and celebrities, business people, politicians) will be obsessing today with the result of the US Presidential election. It is important – but this week also people are being killed in Nigeria for being Christians, and millions of children are in poverty. I wanted to know the effect of Covid – and the way we are dealing with it – upon the poorest. So I turned to someone who lives and works in Uganda with the poorest. What Marsali has to say is I believe, more important than anything else you will hear in the endless commentary about the US election. Watch and weep.
Marsali works in Uganda with Dwelling Places and has a Masters in global health so she is the perfect person to talk about Covid in Africa. I found it to be a really revealing conversation – challenging and moving. I apologise for the quality of my camera work – and I hate seeing myself on camera (I have a great face for radio!) but I share this with you, raw and unedited – including an appearance of Annabel – because I think what Marsali has to share is so important.
There are many things that stand out in this interview – but the one overall is that Covid has not only shown the level of injustice and inequality that is in the world (inequality here in the real sense of the word – not the one used by our ‘progressives’), but has also made it worse. Lockdown in Uganda has been devastating for the poor.
Some of the statistics that Marsali shared are astounding. There are 12,000 cases of Covid in Uganda – 114 deaths. Last year there were 16 million cases of malaria – 10,500 deaths – although according to Marsali its many times that. In addition to this Uganda has had to face cholera, tuberculosis, famine, locusts…One of the effects of lockdown has been a dramatic increase in domestic and sexual abuse. In one district alone there are 10,000 extra pregnancies of teenage girls who have not been going to school.
I hope that we will never forget what the Lord’s priorities are. Like this from Isaiah 58.
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.