Cesar Chelala
A physician and writer

Honoring the Reverend Desmond Tutu

The death of Desmond Tutu has been a tragic loss to human rights, justice and development in Africa. Many words will be said in his honor. However, the best way to honor his memory is for leaders of industrialized countries to provide increased public health and socio-economic support to the African people to whom Desmond Tutu devoted his life and work.

Today the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in Africa that could have been avoided. Having sufficient vaccines available to all will help curtail the coronavirus pandemic in Africa. And, by stalling the development of new mutations, in the rest of the world.

Health problems in Africa still require considerable technical and financial assistance.

Improving the infrastructure of health systems in most African countries will be critical to address long-term health crises in addition to the current pandemic.

Increasing access to primary health care, including vaccinations, should also be paired with strengthening civil society and community-based organizations and providing access to education for all. This will require a commitment from the international community, the collaboration of health workers worldwide and the leadership of African churches and organizations.

Aid to Africa should be aimed at strengthening civil society and community-based organizations. African governments need help to provide education for all age levels, and they need better trade conditions for their products. They need financial assistance given in a carefully planned and responsible way.

Writer Paul Theroux, who has traveled extensively in several African countries wrote, “I would not send private money to a charity, or foreign aid to a government, unless every dollar was accounted for. Dumping more money in the same old way is not only wasteful, but stupid and harmful.” To be effective aid must bypass corrupt governments and find ways of helping people in more direct ways. It is a measure of the humanity of industrialized nations to provide public health resources and support at this critical moment.

Desmond Tutu has said, “Africans believe in something that is difficult to render in English. We call it ubuntu, botho. It means the essence of being human. You know when it is there and when it is absent. It speaks about humaneness, gentleness, hospitality, putting yourself out on behalf of others, being vulnerable. It embraces compassion and toughness. It recognizes that my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

About the Author
César Chelala is a physician and writer born in Argentina and living in the U.S. He wrote for leading newspapers all over the world and for the main medical journals, among them The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Japan Times, The China Daily, The Moscow Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde Diplomatique, Harvard International Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and The British Medical Journal. He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.
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