The Pandemic Issue

Rwanda At the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), we have worked to fur- ther our educational mission during this unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, a pandemic that reminds us of the crit- ical importance of our mission. With our campus located in the rural north of Rwanda, it was our priority to not only continue to provide quality education— which has transitioned to fully virtual learning—but also to take extensive precautions to protect our students, staff, faculty, and the surrounding community from the virus. Given the toll of this virus and the drastic change in social norms it has created, we are conducting not only weekly physical screenings but also mental health screenings. We are grateful to report that all from our UGHE community have remained in strong health. We are grateful to keep contributing to the fight for global health equity during a time such as this.

U.S.A. I practice Stoic philosophy and have been wondering what the Stoics might have to say about how to react to a pandemic. It struck me that our current situation is somewhat analogous to something many in the ancient world had to experience: exile. When someone is in exile, their life is very different, of lower quality, and far more constrained, than what they are used to. Just like during self-isolation or lockdown in a pandemic. So what did the Stoics do when in exile? They taught philosophy to others, like Musonius Rufus, a famous first-century teacher. And they wrote letters of consolation to their loved ones, as Seneca, also in the first century, did to his mother Helvia. In that letter, Seneca says that Fortune comes and goes, but what remains constant, and independent of Fortune, is our character, our determination to always be the best human beings we can be. Indeed, it is in times of difficulties and setbacks that we have an opportunity to shine. As he puts it, everyone is a good pilot when the sea is calm. It’s only in the midst of a storm that we see who is truly skilled. So let’s think of the current storm as an opportunity to improve our proficiency at navigating life. Massimo Pigliucci Professor of Philosophy, City College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Philippines Here in the Philippines, government agencies regularly post pandemic-re- lated visual aids through social media in order to prove a point (e.g., “The curve is flattening,” “We have more or fewer cases”), except the visual aids are unintuitive, if not altogether cherry-picked: Trend lines are traced haphazardly, bar charts are not drawn to scale, and government spokesper- sons almost literally tell people what to believe. Instead of just mocking these visual aids, younger data scientists and statisticians have taken to social media to talk about how to interpret data and why some visual aids are badly made. These scientists use these social media posts as a starting point to help people think critically rather than accept knowledge wholesale, which fits well with how the practice of science is about questioning, critical thinking, and healthy skepticism. Inez Ponce de Leon Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Ateneo de Manila University • Supporting online entertainment platforms by the Ministry of Information of Communications and Technology in cooperation with other ministries, including the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Cultural Heritage Organization, to run virtual museum tour platforms, hold online music concerts, etc.; and • Launching the #BeScientific cam- paign (in Persian) as a collaboration between the UNESCO Chair on Pop- ularization of Science at the National Research Institute for Science Policy (NRISP) and the Iranian Association for the Popularization of Science, with the aims to enlighten public opinion and fight pseudo-science and fake news related to COVID-19. Akram Ghadimi Associate Professor, Department of Popularization of Science, National Research Institute for Science Policy Iran Iran was one of the first countries to be involved in the crisis.Widespread international sanctions have restricted the capability to control the virus. In response to the pandemic, scientific institutions, non-governmental orga- nizations, and government agencies have facilitated the transition from this crisis by: • Closing religious places (e.g., shrines, mosques) and pivoting their activities, in some cases as a temporary produc- tion workshops for masks and medical equipment; • Expanding the penetration rate of state and free internet throughout the country; • Increasing the presence of scientists in the mass media to raise pub- lic awareness and help control the disease;

Agnes Binagwaho Vice Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity; former Minister of Health

U.S.A. The pandemic has revealed that now more than ever, science communication cannot prevail until nations and states dismantle the underlying structural injus- tices that erode trust in science. For instance, the exploitation of racial minori- ties’ justified distrust of the medical establishment by anti-vaccine groups has become a matter of growing concern—from the 2017 Minnesota measles outbreak after activists convinced Somali-American immigrants that vaccines cause autism to the growing present-day opposition to a COVID-19 vaccine. Still, there is hope if only those who disseminate science-based information understand that the anti-vaccine movement, and similar movements that sit at the crossroads of science and society, have never been fundamentally about evidence. It’s about whom to trust. Kavin Senapathy Science, health, and parenting writer; Member, American Society of Journalists and Authors; Contributing Editor,

Indonesia Although the clerics all agreed that public prayer should be banned to slow the spread of the disease, many Indo- nesian Muslims clogged the mosque during Ramadan and Eid, complete- ly ignoring the health and religious authorities. Some Indonesian Muslims even strongly believe that somehow the Jewish and the Chinese are the mas- terminds of the pandemic—a bizarre claim that Muhammadiyah, one of the largest Muslim organizations, is trying hard to debunk. Conspiracy-theory believers are still not completely con- vinced by counter-arguments coming from religious authorities. Rizqy Amelia Zein Assistant Professor, Department of Personality

Morocco Our communication efforts have included we- binars on the environment, climate change, and inter-linkages with the pandemic, for example effects of coronavirus on biodiversity, how COVID-19 has benefitted climate, and the green economic recovery from COVID-19. Our mem- bers have also written opinion articles pub- lished in journals and media in more than ten Arab countries. These activities have attracted the attention of communities, raised awareness as the scientific material was communicated in the Arabic language, and significantly un- leashed the potential of our members. Hajar Khamlichi President and Co-Founder, Mediterranean Youth Climate Network; Board Member, Moroccan Alliance for Climate and Sustainable Development

and Social Psychology, Universitas Airlangga


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