President Trump’s battle with coronavirus and its spread to several of his top aides have dominated global media since the news broke October 1 that the president had contracted the disease. The President is one of more than 35 million persons around the world confirmed to have contracted the disease according to the World Health Organization.
Two hundred and seven countries have reported cases caused by the deadly coronavirus, and there has been a stunning total of well more than a million fatalities so far. A web search reveals that the plague, first reported last December, has no boundaries, striking wealthy families in the United States and Europe as well as impoverished ones throughout the Third World. What a challenge for public diplomacy abroad as America faces its own challenges at home!
Take, for example, an NBC documentary on the passing of Lawrence, 86, and Patsy Adcock, 83, residents of Indianapolis, Indiana, who had been married 65 years and died within days of each other after an unexpected battle against Covid-19 last spring. Lawrence, a retired chemical engineer died in late March. That same day, Patsy started experiencing symptoms of the dreaded disease. According to NBC, she said: “We always planned to be able to go together.” She passed away just ten days later.
A masterful survey published by five Washington Post correspondents on September 28 puts it best: “From the first wave in China last December through New York City’s April catastrophe and on to India’s current surge, the coronavirus has unleashed worldwide suffering with no evident exit.”
In that first outbreak in Wuhan, China, the Post’s Joanna Slater reports:
“The stories forced us to avert our eyes: a 55-year-old man in that city bundles up his mother and father and hustles them from one overstuffed hospital to another, searching for a bed, finding none. He takes them home and awaits their passing, just ten days from each other.”
After the U.S. with more than 200,000 fatalities, the greatest number of COVID-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization on October 6, have been in Brazil (146,952), India (102,685) and Mexico (81,877).
“Unlike any other country seriously affected by the virus,” according to Ms. Slater of the Post, “India’s curve has trended upward for months — no plateau, no second wave, just a long, grinding climb. Experts knew India faced a vast challenge. In a country of more than 1.3 billion people, densely populated cities and weak health care infrastructure, a nationwide lockdown exacted a staggering cost: 120 million jobs vanished while workers flowed out of cities on foot.”
She cited the example of the Tikone family, whose patriarch was Ganesh Tikone. The impoverished 42-year-old poultry worker and fish vendor lived in a municipality called Khanapur. He was the first to die of the dreaded disease in his family, having been rejected by nearby hospitals because he couldn’t afford a down payment. When he scraped together enough for the down payment, all the local hospitals were full.
As his son Manish put it: “Rich people can save their lives because they have money but what will poor people do?” Manish and his brother Ganesh went home after their father’s passing, uncertain about their futures now that the family’s principal breadwinner was gone.
The two brothers had to sleep on a covered porch… the rest of the family crowded inside their home. Manish and Ganesh lost no time in falling asleep.
“Early the next morning,” the Post account concluded, “Manish found Ganesh motionless and tried to wake his brother. ‘I couldn’t understand,’ Manish said, ‘that he was dead.’ Local officials tried for hours to find a vehicle to transport Ganesh’s body to the nearby cremation ground. Finally, the village head arranged for four personal protective equipment kits and a bag for the body.
“The family borrowed a cart that a neighbor used to sell fish. Four men (the village head, a local doctor, a police official and Ganesh’s cousin Omkar) — pushed the cart through empty streets. They piled the wood up and lit the pyre themselves.”
What a grim account that might serve as a reminder to the prosperous nations of North America, Western Europe, and Japan to band together on aid and expertise to share with needy countries at this time of peril to humanity as a whole! That would be an exercise in charity and assistance that potentially could save millions of lives and serve us all.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More