"They're Traumatized": Governments Ignore Plight Of Foreign Students Trapped In Wuhan

Beijing wasn't thrilled last month when the US, UK, Japan, South Korea and a bevy of other developed nations demanded they be allowed to evacuate their citizens from virus-stricken Wuhan, instead of leaving them to survive or die of the plague or starvation as essentials run low in a city of 11 million on lockdown.

It accused foreign governments of being alarmist and acting hysterical. Interestingly, many countries, mostly in Africa, that had large numbers of students and others either studying or working in the city, opted not to pursue to evacuation route, pledging to find some other way to meet their peoples' needs.

That was a month ago.

Now, many young African students are exasperated by their governments, which they claim have basically abandoned them either to avoid straining ties with Beijing, or simply because they can't risk introducing the virus to their impoverished and deeply unprepared health-care systems.

According to Reuters, one Ugandan student in Wuhan is living in a crowded dorm. With no money, she survives on one meal a day. The student's mother, who wakes up at 3 am Uganda time every day to talk with her daughter on WeChat, told Reuters that the young students have been "traumatized" by the experience.

"They are traumatised," said Namusisi, who wakes up at 3 a.m. every day to talk to her daughters over the Chinese messaging service WeChat. "They ask, has Uganda given up on us?"

Not a single sub-Saharan country has flown their citizens home from Wuhan. And neither has Pakistan, which relies on China's support in its eternal struggle against India, especially as tensions between the two have run especially high in recent years.

According to DW, there are around 1,300 Pakistani students currently in Hubei province, 800 of them in Wuhan, the province's capital, and epicenter of the virus, which has been under lockdown for weeks. Their families gathered in Islamabad on Thursday to demand the government do something to rescue their children.

A group of Pakistani students studying in Beijing were allowed to leave the country earlier this month. But for the students in Wuhan, the government is only in intermittent contact with them and their families. The consensus is that the students will be left to wait out the outbreak.

Not only are the students living in "constant fear" of catching the virus, they are also struggling against food shortages.

Some of the students told DW that they are living under the constant fear of catching the virus. Asif Sajjad, a student at Wuhan University, said that many of them are suffering from psychological stress.

"We have been confined to our rooms for weeks. If anyone coughs or sneezes, it sends a shiver down our spines to think the person may have caught the virus," he said.

"There are food shortages, and even if we go out on the balcony, we have to cover our face. We want to know why the government does not bring us back."

The Chinese government says it has taken adequate measures to protect foreign students in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hubei.

But one student complained that he didn't even have the "recommended" facemasks mandated by health officials in China amid a widespread shortage in China. He claimed the government could have at least helped him and students like him obtain supplies.

"In addition to that we have not been provided with the recommended masks, but only the simple masks," he said, adding that the proximity of hospitals to the campus was also a concern.

"It seems the Pakistani government is not concerned about us at all. Even poor countries like the Maldives have taken out their students but we are still stuck here living in constant fear."

After telling Reuters that she had gone to the Ugandan parliament seeking help, but come up empty handed, the Ugandan mother we mentioned above recounted the story about how she told her daughters to run and go shopping as soon as they told her about the quarantine.

When Margaret Ntale Namusisi’s three daughters called her in Uganda to say they were being quarantined at their university in Wuhan, China, because of the coronavirus outbreak, she sent money and told them: "Run very fast and do shopping."

At this point, there appears to be little their families can do. Their governments have kowtowed to Beijing, which has refused to publicly acknowledge that it isn't winning the fight against the virus, and that the outbreak should be cleared up by springtime, as President Trump once said.

But pretty soon, the biggest concern for these students won't just be evading the virus. It'll be about survival as food stocks run out and millions begin to starve.

At least, that would be the worst-case scenario...