Letter to the Editor: The U.S. Must Enhance its COVID-19 African Diplomacy

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The United States has been a key fixture in aiding other nations for decades, stemming back to the enactment of the 1948 Marshall Plan to rebuild post-WWII Europe. This aid has not been provided solely due to any moral obligation — foreign aid carries with it a laundry list of benefits. National security is enhanced when vulnerable populations can turn to actors allied with the U.S. for assistance. Additionally, trade is enhanced when previously underdeveloped markets grow, increasing our exports and expanding American domestic job production.

The lackluster public health system in place in Africa prior to COVID-19 was not equipped to handle a pandemic of this magnitude, making these countries turn to other states internationally for assistance. Increased American isolationism in recent years has allowed other countries to fill the old role the U.S. played in the international system; specifically, China.

The Chinese were already expanding their humanitarian assistance in Africa prior to COVID-19, but their presence has only increased following the completion of their own COVID vaccine. China has already begun a massive distribution campaign, selling and even donating millions of vaccines to many African countries.

The U.S., on the other hand, is refraining from doing so, despite having purchased more vaccines than its population needs and being equipped with a manufacturing system that is currently outpacing the rate at which people are being vaccinated.

The 2021 International Affairs Budget includes most of the funding allotted to diplomatic efforts and American foreign aid programs. However, it only takes up 1.2% of the total federal budget. While this is an increase from the international affairs budgets of the Trump era, spending on global health only increased by 1% from 2020. If the U.S. hopes to maintain its influence in these emerging markets without being outpaced by China, then it must increase its financial commitment to developing these regions.

The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe following WWII and cemented their allyship with an economically reinvigorated United States. As this pandemic comes to an end, it seems unlikely that we will reemerge as a wealthier, healthier and more influential nation.

I am calling on U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler to vocalize her support for additional American foreign aid and humanitarian development in a time wherein the world needs our assistance and leadership.

 

Brayden Burke

Chehalis

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Christopher Vandenberg

While the author of the above editorial may have good intentions, I don't think he has a solid grasp of the actual statistics. Per the World Health Organization (WHO) the entire continent of Africa has a lower per capita Covid infection rate than any continent other than Antarctica.. You can look up the numbers yourself on the WHO regional websites. As of May 11, 2021, the total number of reported Covid infections continent wide in Africa is 4.7 million cases for a continent with an estimated population of 1.216 billion people. Compared with Europe (53 million cases for 746.4 million population), North America (39 milllion cases for 579 million people), South America (27 million cases for a continental population of 422.5 million people.). Even the individual nation of India has higher Covid infections as the entire continent of Africa while being similar on population (India 23.7 million infections for 1.39 Billion people). Scientists have no explanation for Africa's low Covid infection rates. It is ulikely that the proffered explanation of warm/humid climates reducing virus survival is correct as Africa's climate varies from dry deserts to humid Jungles. Nor does it explain the high infection rates in other humid nations like Brazil and India.

Based on the statistics, the more logical call for American aid would be the for Indian subcontinent or the Amazon River Basin of South America. Additionally the author's overt geopolitical appeal to counter the Chinese influence on the African continent is similarly misplaced. Despite the apparent worldwide neo-colonial intentions of the People's Republic of China, I think the citizens of Africa have historically demonstrated their ability to shuck the yoke of colonial occupiers. Until the statistics indicate otherwise, there are more desperate places in need of American aid. Perhaps the European Union would be the better entity to influence the geopolitics of that region.

Also Mr Burke, a word of advice. I would not hitch my cart to Congresswoman Herrera Beutler or any other lame horse Republican. As today's ouster of Representative Liz Cheney (who Herrera Beutler voted to retain in Republican leadership) demonstrates, one's status as a rising star can disappear in an instant. I doubt our unpopular Congresswoman will get any traction sponsoring such a bill as you have requested. Anyhow, she needs to best utilize her time updating her resume for her post-Congressional endeavors.

Wednesday, May 12