"[O]ccasionally being naughty with my friends, we would stop in town and roam around and sort of walk around and I was less than 11 years old, but with other friends. And we were very clear that if there's a white kid coming, walking in the opposite direction on the curb, you don't get out of the way for this person. So those kinds of small defiances. So by by the time I was 11 leaving South Africa, I knew there was something very wrong with the society we live in." Dr. Matshidiso Moeti talks to Melissa about her childhood in South Africa and Botswana, and her fears about the effect of COVID-19, especially on women: ”The impact on women economically is going to make them even more vulnerable to many things, not just to COVID itself," she says.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti is the first female Regional Director for Africa for the World Health Organization (WHO). Now she’s the face of the COVID-19 fight in Africa, but she says facing the pandemic is easier than where she started her career as a doctor - fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s. Now, she says, we’re willing to talk about inequalities and tackle stigma about disease.


Full Transcript +

Melissa Fleming  00:00

My guest today is Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director for Africa for the World Health Organization, the first woman to be appointed to this post, and now the face of the COVID-19 fight in Africa. We're going to get to that in a little while. But this is not the first pandemic you've had to deal with. As a young doctor in Botswana, you were at the forefront of dealing with the HIV AIDS pandemic in the very early days. What was it like coping with HIV AIDS back then?


Matshidiso Moeti  00:33

It was very tough. The lack of access to any effective treatment and the sense that here is something which relatively quickly will kill whoever gets it as an infection, that sense of helplessness, which is very unlike the feeling that I was used to having as a doctor. Where you get into the ward you see your patients and you're so happy to see your patient leave, and you meet people in the street who know you and express this happiness and gratitude, you get a bit addicted to that you get used to that feel good, although you do lose some patients. So this scale of people being registered in your in your register and you know that within 18 months, two years if if something doesn't change drastically that they're going to die. So that's, I remember very strongly that sense of helplessness, but also the determination to do something about this. And I'll just tell you one story I have I was in an inner office on the second floor overlooking High School, so that was the kind of middle school nearby and then next to that was a little shop where the students used to come out to buy their snacks at lunchtime at break, and my my office overlooked where they would then hang out chatting, and I would very often see couples, this must have been kids, the girl probably 14 years old 15 If not, and the boy may be 17. And I remember very vividly, very often seeing these couples boy was was clearly trying to get the girl to have a relationship with him. So the young man would be leaning forward talking to this girl. And the girl would be looking down on the ground, twirling her foot around, looking very shy and uncertain. I'd look at that and say, Okay, here is the beginning of a possible unsafe sexual encounter. And I'm very worried. Yeah, I became really obsessed with watching those kids at break and wanting to scream at the girl, you know, look up, look him in the face. If you don't want to do anything with him tell him that. No, this picture of a girl looking shy. Not able to assert herself has stayed in my mind forever. Because I've got two daughters. I was always thinking about okay. I've had to make sure that when they get to be this age, They can look a young man in the face if they're not interested and say no. Or if they are interested, look him in the face and say yes, but let's do it safely. So that's why so those are the kinds of feelings that I remember from that time being helpless people are dying. Being very proud my government is investing in this and being really determined. We have to do something so that women can determine the circumstances under which they have a sexual encounter in a sexual relationship.



Melissa Fleming  03:29

Is there a story is there someone you can remember? Who got the the illness and that you can't kind of get out of your mind? 


Matshidiso Moeti  03:39

Oh, yes, oh, yes, I lost friends. Very good friends. One one. young man who was around my age who had been a schoolmate, a very close friend with whom, you know, in the education system at home was that we went to boarding school. I was in boarding school at a Catholic Mission School near near Gaborone the capital city, which has very strict it was run by Irish missionaries who tried to, you know, it was a coed school but they were very strict about boys can't speak to girls, which I found totally absurd. So his desk was next to me and he was a friend at school and our families were friends as well. He was also like me, his mother was of South African origin like I'm originally South African and we'd moved to Botswana. So I used to talk to him all the time at school and then get told to go and see the principal you are talking to this boy, and I'd say to the, to the nun but you know, during the holidays, I talked to him every day he comes to my house, I go to his house, we play tennis together. So anyway, he was one of the early people who got HIV and died. I know many people who died of aids that but the fact that my friend died so early that he really caught HIV and died in the days when we were still keeping the register in secret in the desk of my drawer in the office, the list of people with HIV so his name was on that list


Melissa Fleming  05:09

His name, your friend's name was on a list?


Matshidiso Moeti  05:12

Yes, I mean that that was in the, in the days of that intense stigma around HIV and and then the difficulties of where to keep the information. And it was a little bit before we started using computers. So every day we would get the, the test results from the laboratory because then there was the work of trying to do counselling with these people and helping them to tell their partners and take care of their sexual lives and so on. So yes, one day the list arrived. I looked and it's like, No, not this name. Surely not. And you know, yeah.

Dr. Moeti is on a field visit in a hospital and is seen in discussion with Mr. Aziz, QA officer.

Melissa Fleming  05:57

Did you speak to him? Did you reach out to him. 


Matshidiso Moeti  06:00

No,because the other day he was being dealt with by other people. So the people who had dealt with him in the clinical setting are the ones who then had to organise the counselling. I mean, eventually, yes, eventually, but not right then. That was very painful. His wife was also a very, very good friend of mine, and survived for many years. In fact, he committed suicide. You didn't die of AIDS. He. That's what happened to him. Yeah, it was very painful. He felt very guilty. He could have done this to his wife. They had a young child, what would be the impact on his family? It was very difficult.


Melissa Fleming  06:45

So you think it was the stigma that drove him suicide?


Matshidiso Moeti  06:47

Yes, very much very much. So. I mean, to be fair, he is somebody who also had had depression which is another another health problem which needs so much work from all of us. So it was that combination of depression and the guilt, I believe. And the stigma as well. And and the rumours that fly around in a small society that, you know, inevitably whatever, however hard you lock the booklet in your desk drawer, the story does get out somehow. And it did. And the stigma then was terrible. So I've lost two really close friends and many other people to HIV. I've lost people in my family cousins. And then I have family members living with HIV AIDS To this day, which is, of course, a triumph, which is the other side of this story.You know, 


Melissa Fleming  07:00

So there must have been a turning point when you went from feeling helpless in the face of this horrific virus to feeling somewhat hopeful when at least there was treatment.


Matshidiso Moeti  07:59

Yes, it was when I, by that time I was working in WHO And when Dr. Lee, the then WHO Director General decided that Okay, we're going to launch this treatment campaign, Dr. Lee decided even when the antiretroviral therapy was so expensive, and African countries couldn't afford it, you know, acknowledge the absolute lack of fairness in the situation and drive this initiative to put 3 million people on treatment by the year 2005. I was so happy. I remember going home and telling my husband and children that Okay, there is this new initiative that is starting. It's a huge amount of work that we are going to have to do. So you'll have to kind of excuse and forgive me for the next few months. I'm going to be here but not really here. And it turned out to be absolutely true, but I was thrilled  and felt hugely empowered and encouraged by the possibility of finally being able to do something on a scale that would make a difference. So it wouldn't be just individual families doing their best. Spending all their money chasing after treatment, but to be something that WHO would be doing so that sense of being helpless and just watching something tragic unfold was able to be to be relieved. I remember that very clearly, very vividly.


Melissa Fleming  09:30

I mean, I'm going to come back a bit later to COVID-19. But I just want a question in between because you mentioned this feeling of helpless rage. Is this feeling coming? Coming to you again, in the in this new situation in this new pandemic?


Matshidiso Moeti  09:49

No, it's not. It's not because I think


Melissa Fleming  09:54



Matshidiso Moeti  09:56

I think there's a lot that we can do. I feel more optimistic about how the world has moved on in even openly recognising the potential inequities. Today it gets talked about publicly. And if I just go back to one one memory, strong memory that I have of that then acceptance at the international level that you know, poor African people that they are helpless, it's inevitable they’re going to die. I remember when the Botswana government decided to buy the drugs to provide free treatment with its own money to the people. That was in Addis for yet another meeting and somebody who worked for DFID, quite senior official, came across me at breakfast, stopped me and said, your government is being very unfair and irresponsible. So I said what do you mean? That Okay, they are talking about providing treatment buying treatment. This is holding out false hope for people in Africa. That is possible for them to have access to treatment, I remember that conversation holding a plate in my hand in the cafeteria of the Hilton Hotel in Addis. And this DFID official saying to me, the Botswana government shouldn't be holding out false hope that you can actually pay for treatment and a government can help these people not die of HIV. I was outraged.


Melissa Fleming  11:23

What did you say to him?


Matshidiso Moeti  11:25

I said to him, I'm very disappointed to hear that. Do you think it's fair that African people are just having to accept they're going to die in the millions because they were dying in the millions every year that you think that's fine. And you think it's kind of cheeky of a government to aspire to use its own money to save the lives of his people? No. So then fast track to this  


Melissa Fleming  11:49

You proved him wrong.


Matshidiso Moeti  11:51

Really. So fast track to this moment, then of this decision by the WHO leadership that this is possible. This is doable. It was very transformative.


Melissa Fleming  12:07

The listeners can't see, but I can see your smile.


Matshidiso Moeti  12:10

Yeah. So so. So going back to COVID, then I think all the actions that are being done now know, you know, never mind the possibility of prevention, which is not easy, but which is happening. You know, I watched the graphs of the countries every day and I see okay, the rate of increase of cases while I was like this, the government is doing something and we see the curve change shape, change direction, that gives a lot of hope. The fact that at the global level, there are all these decisions, ambitions, let me say, and actions to prepare to have a vaccine available and accessible in the world. For me, it's a totally different picture. Really.

Dr. Moeti stands next to pregnant women.

Melissa Fleming  12:57

That's, that's wonderful to hear. We're definitely going to come Back to that, but just sticking with the period when you were working on HIV testing centres were being attacked. And were you ever because of all this stigma? Were you ever in a risky situation?


Matshidiso Moeti  13:15

No, no, not not personally not not, not personally. But I mean, I was very aware and we were working, working with all sorts of people working with groups with networks of people living with HIV, as well, who who are extremely courageous. I mean, I think the first people to come out in Africa, were very courageous, the stigma was so strong. And then also the first group of people who came out as men who have sex with men, gay gay men. Who came out in Africa were then extremely courageous so those are some of the people that one was working with, in order to do the some of the advocacy Look, look Justice and whom we knew were at risk.


Melissa Fleming  14:04

So your job was was more than the typical public health job you were you had to be an advocate for stigmatised populations or people in the population who became acutely stigmatised as a result of this diagnosis.


Matshidiso Moeti  14:22

Yes, very much so, you know, because at that time, our job was to advocate for people to get treatment. We spend a lot of time also trying to work through different programmes on the attitudes of healthcare workers themselves, so that they would not be judgmental. It's also very much in the African context, sex workers. So So women who would also be regarded as terrible people. When I was working in Botswana with a friend who was then at the university, I was at the Ministry of Health. We did a project on women and HIV so working with with all sorts of women, starting off with sex workers, so going out to speak to groups of women in the bars, where they used to gather and then trying to find ways for them to have access to preventive measures, and those that we became aware of who got ill to have access to treatment. And that was, I mean, we used to go out and sit around and wait for the woman to come up and then talk to talk to the women. We didn't we didn't have money to hire research assistants. So we had to get those links ourselves and then carried out some interventions with them, basically on safe sex. We then decided, Okay, let's go into the government offices and other workplaces and see what what are the issues around women's status and we uncovered - I was shocked, we uncovered the kind of underbelly of the realities of sexual life in what looked like A very respectful conservative society, multi partner behaviour that you could not imagine. And women does mean women of all types, but the younger professional women who basically revealed that, you know, to manage my life, I have to have several sexual partners at the same time. And as they told us, you know, there's the one who pays school fees for my kids. There's the one who pays helped me pay off my car, there's the one who helps me with my rent. And we, it was unbelievable, to understand our society in ways that naively I have never realised. I mean, of course, you knew that well, people will mess around, they might be married, they might have another partner. But this was a very well established way of surviving by by many, many young women who were kind of junior officers, secretaries running around the the ministries, the offices and So we had to then engage in this discussion with them at the workplace around, you know, if this is the way that you must learn how to be safe, I couldn't believe how these there was juggling. I was like, how do you juggle the schedule of all these people, you know? Even sorry. But while you're doing this, you have to think about that as well. I became very notorious for talking about sex on the radio, talking about sex in public having to go out and talk to the elders, the village elders about what's going on in the village, how people are living, how young girls are being exploited, how this is not okay, and you need to do something about it.


Melissa Fleming  17:42

How did they react to you the elders when you spoke to them about this?


Matshidiso Moeti  17:46

Actually, I was surprised. And I came with my assumptions that I have to cloak this and polite language, I can be very explicit even in the articulation and no they were, they were much more open than than I expected. I have to say, I remember going to the central district and coming very respectfully to the influential people in this area. And I sat down and then talked about oh, you know, uncles, this is the reality of how life is you have heard about this germ that is circulating around and it circulates like this. And we are particularly worried about young women but everybody, they were very open about Yes, we see this behaviour. We know that older men we know that we sometimes do naughty things, as they put it that we should not do with younger women. And we know also that somewhat our culture, our norms, find that fine. So you're asking us to change things that are really difficult to change. What should we do that I was amazed that okay, all my inhibitions, all my careful preparation of nice words to cloak this actually hadn't been necessary. They were, they were ready to be even rather rudely explicit, but at least they were ready to confront the issue. Men struggle with this, they told me, I was saying to them, but you are the elders, you're the ones who have to help the men to do better and particularly help the women to be protected. 


Melissa Fleming  19:20

You come from a public health background, but the societal norms and the situation of women and girls have to play a huge role in protecting societies and communities. Now we're dealing with a different type of virus. And this is also exposing women and girls vulnerabilities.


Matshidiso Moeti  19:41

Oh, yeah, very much so. I mean, first of all, if you think about health workers, of course, we have seen health workers of all types being infected and dying. We've seen doctors dying as well. But I mean, you know, the majority of healthcare workers and carers in general are women. So, with the challenges that African countries have had getting access to personal protective equipment in sufficient quantities in the healthcare setting, that's a huge risk. And then secondly, you know, the lock downs, so people being compelled to be at home, we have seen in quite a number of countries an increase in gender based violence and women being being beaten up at home. I mean, I work in public health, and I'm very, very concerned about stopping the pandemic. But I'm even more concerned about the social and economic impact and it has been immediate and huge. And the impact on women economically is going to make them even more vulnerable to many things not just to COVID itself. I mean, I worry a lot about the women and I live in Brazzaville and I do my vegetable and fruit shopping at a market local and I've been going into that market for the same 12 years I've got to know those women there's a lot of women who keep the stalls there very well and their business has collapsed and you know their prices have gone down that that's had an impact on them. I worry about the young woman who braids my hair and know that she can't move around very much. Okay, now I've since I have to be on in public and webinars. I've had to make a plan with her we wear masks and she comes to braid my hair but I keep my braids for weeks longer than I normally would you know, and I keep asking her What are you doing about business and she tells me business is down.

Dr. Moeti shakes the hand of Sherrie Bangura

Melissa Fleming  21:37

That's worrying. you yourself you know while people are are not able to work as much you are working more than you probably ever have. What is it what is it like for you these days and and how are you coping?


Matshidiso Moeti  21:52

Yeah, it's it's really it's very intense. Very intense. I haven't worked so hard. Since I was the national programme manager for HIV in Botswana, really, and then I was way younger than I am now. So it was not you start with the virtual meetings early in the morning, so I had to discipline myself because quite often you get up in the morning you're on the WhatsApp. And then while in your pyjamas, sometimes you are on a meeting on the call. And at a certain point, you have to stop and say, by the way, you haven't had a shower yet this morning. So you need to go and have a shower, you need to. Yeah, and you can be at it until late at night, just hoping to have a cup of tea stopping to have something to eat. So it's been very, very intense in terms of work coordinating my team of people who themselves are working extremely hard. You know, and this has been since February when we're in that preparedness phase. Now. We have the virus all over in in the region. It's very, very intense. On the other hand, It's not travelling. I travel a lot normally. So I'm really pleased that I'm compelled to be in Brazzaville. So I'm eating healthily. I've lost five kilos in weight. I'm occasionally able to get on my bike and exercise. And how do I keep going, I listen to music a lot. So one of the pluses of this is I’m in my house. on my own. I mean, not not in the last few weeks, I've come back to working in the office, but I like jazz a lot. So I've been able to reconnect with music that I like and actually take a break and calm down a bit. I've had to force myself to do that. So when you come home in the evening, normally what I would do is quickly eat and then be back at work again until midnight, when I go to sleep and then get up in the morning 5:30/6:00 and be back at work again. I keep in touch closely with my family with my husband with my siblings. With my daughters and with a few friends, so so it's leveraging the technology  


Melissa Fleming May I asked where's your husband and it must It must be a bit difficult being separated it is by this virus situation.  24:15

My husband is actually from Mauritania, I’m married to a Mauritanian man, but he spends a lot of time in, in South Africa. My family's scattered a bit all over the place. So he normally lives in Abidjan, but he's in and out in South Africa a lot. So he is hunkered down in a suburb of Johannesburg. My daughter is also in in Joburg. I have a brother in Joburg and then my other siblings, brother and sister are in in Botswana in Gaborone so so we I belong in two countries really. And I've homes in both of these countries. As I said I was born in South Africa but grew up in Botswana, we moved there when I was a child. And then I've got to daughter in London. And I've got stepson and stepdaughters in Dakar Senegal, and and in Canada.  


Melissa Fleming

Your parents made the decision to move from South Africa, to Botswana. You were living, I think in in a township. Yeah. Why did your parents decide to move you from South Africa?


Matshidiso Moeti  25:20

Yeah, I because of apartheid in a word. You know, my parents were both doctors. So I want to acknowledge I've had a privileged life compared to many South African children. My dad was. So he was he was kind of on the fringes of the ANC not sort of centrally involved in politics. He came from a very poor family. And he had a lot of siblings to bring up so he more or less educated his seven siblings and my mom did the same. So both of them had a big family to look after as soon as they qualified as doctors which is common in many African families. And my dad was obsessed with a good education because he came from this very humble background he was born in a farm labourer’s hut in the Northwest. So those are some of the most difficult environments to grow up in. He was determined to join his parents in Joburg, he walked to Joburg to get an education and he did and ended up qualifying as a doctor. So he was very concerned with the then Bantu education as they call it, so that was a specially designed inferior system of education for Black people. And he decided No, he didn't want this for his children, which is why we eventually moved to Botswana. They first sent me to school in in Swaziland to a boarding school in Swaziland, but even crossing the border to travel there was a major, major effort. So we I was told I mean, for some reason, it was like oh, well, we have to say that we're visiting a sick relative in Swaziland when I was being driven to school, and my mother would get into huge quarrels with the officials, on the South African side just to cross a border to go and drop a child at school. Eventually they decided to move to Botswana. I was 11 years old, but I live the first 11 years of my life in in a South African township in a mining town on the east of east of Joburg. 


Melissa Fleming  27:16

You've spoken a lot about inequality and injustice. Is there something from from that time that stuck with you? 


Matshidiso Moeti  27:25

Oh, many memories. You know, I even remember going to town with my mom to shop for for clothes and it'd be like, okay, you can't go into this fitting room. So they used to be in a big store. This was a Okay, not a very big town but just not far from Joburg. So there were nice shops where you could do your shopping, and my mom who okay was a young doctor with a little bit of money and could buy some nice clothes. When we used to go shopping. She used to not be allowed to go into the normal fitting room. Otherwise a pokey little side room where this is where the Black Black shoppers do your own fittings and and just those petty disrespect of a day to day nature in a place like this was was something that one saw as a child. I mean, I already knew by the time I was leaving South Africa, the school I went to was not in the same township that we lived, there was an older township where my parents believed the schools were better. So I used to have to take two buses to get to school. And occasionally being naughty with my friends, we would stop in town and roam around and sort of walk around and I was less than 11 years old, but with other friends. And we were very clear that if there's a white kid coming, walking in the opposite direction on the curb, you don't get out of the way for this person. So those kinds of small defiances. So by by the time I was 11, leaving South Africa I knew there was something very wrong with a society we live in. At any rate, my dad rather naively used to write to write to the editors of newspapers lecturing the society about public health for Black people. He was quite extraordinary. So he attracted the notice of the police and occasionally they would come and search the house they they suspected him apparently correctly of keeping a gun and there occasionally would have visitation or police barge into the house searching for seditious literature as they called it banned books and searching around for this gun which apparently he had buried in the I don't know he had it kept it in the chicken coop, apparently put it in the ground. This is what I found out later. So I was very aware of this.

Dr.Moeti washes her hands at a portable wash station.

Melissa Fleming  29:44

So the atmosphere must have been quite different when you arrived in Botswana for your family. 


Matshidiso Moeti  29:51

Yeah, Botswana was amazing. I mean, of course it was. It was very different. It was not developed as such. So it was a very small town and a very rural place at that time. I mean, at first, I was very outraged to be very angry with my parents for moving for, you know, taking us away from the rest of the family and my friends, and whatever. Yeah, so at first I was extremely angry wanting to go back. But it was so open and so welcoming. I mean, for the first time I was living in a place where as you walk, you walk past somebody, you would greet them that hadn't been the case in the environment that I'd grown up with, in the township, where of course, there was also violence, and we were, you had to be careful. We were afraid that we weren't allowed to be out at night, because there were those the townships are very violent, South Africa is violent. So Botswana was totally different. I mean, I literally, we could go to sleep without locking the house. And that was transformative for South African child. You feel so safe I used to go to school or ride a bicycle through a certain wood to get to the school. And I don't remember at all being afraid and used to pass people used to pass men on the path and people would greet you hello and whatever. So it was a total transformation in terms of how the society works. It was open, friendly and normal and you felt I mean, I've I've had very affirmed as a person and feeling respected and acknowledged. In South Africa walking around, not being allowed to get into a cafe sometimes and having to buy buy whatever you are buying through a special window for Black people. I mean, that does make an impression on you. Because on a day to day basis that you live your life like this. So Botwana has been amazing for my my family. It's been a truly wonderful, yes,


Melissa Fleming  31:54

you forgave them then your parents very soon. I guess you forgave them. And also everyday you're living in a family where your mother and your father are doctor's, did you want to follow in their in their footsteps? Or did you ever feel like taking a different path? 


Matshidiso Moeti  32:11

No, not immediately I was very determined at the age of 15 which is when I guess you are as your most rebellious sometimes I was like, absolutely not going to study medicine. I'm going to be a physicist. So I went, and I was quite good at science. And then I went and did my A-Levels at a school in in Swaziland, and we had a we had a physics teacher who frankly wasn't dynamic. I mean, he was quite nice Poor guy. And, and with my friend, we decided we're going to tease, this teacher will gaze at him and will smile at him and will so we're very bad, in fact, so I spent quite a lot of time in physics, a little bit bored, behaving a bit badly teasing the teacher and halfway through that I decided actually I'm going to do medicine after all. My parents never tried to...


Melissa Fleming  32:15

you must be grateful for him being so boring. It steered you on this path.


Matshidiso Moeti  33:08

It did. It did. It's amazing. And my parents were very, perhaps


Melissa Fleming  33:13

It was perhaps inevitable.


Matshidiso Moeti  33:14

It was my parents were carefully saying, you know, we're not going to put pressure on you, you can do whatever you like. I mean, I could tell they will be thrilled if I did medicine, but they will not say so. And because I used to hear them talking about work all the time. And by that time, my father was in Public Health he ended up being on the Smallpox Commission. So he was doing trips in the bush, treating TB patients. I mean, I did get interested I, the stories were interesting. So that's how I drifted into that in a way into medicine. And I'm very happy I did.


Melissa Fleming  33:50

So back to your situation. We've heard about how you spend your days. I'm wondering how you sleep at night. And what keeps you awake at night?


Matshidiso Moeti  34:01

I'm very painfully aware of the economic impact, not only on countries that I'm worried about what this will mean about financing for health in the future, but I'm even more worried about the impact on people like I said that the people that I know whose livelihoods I can see have been negatively impacted. We're in the phase now, where the governments have done the lockdowns, which bought a little bit of time. And I truly believe that they did have an impact of moderating what could have been a worse situation in the region. But you know, the the economic cost is too high. They can't keep this up forever, both for people and for the countries and they are now opening up so I'm very aware that what's going to make the difference now, people will be able to move around. They're the ones who have to decide that I'm going to keep my distance, I'm going to protect myself, I'm going to protect my family. And my concern is that, you know, if people's livelihoods have been so badly affected, people are going to go out there looking to earn a living. And if people are struggling, it may be quite difficult for them to actually listen here and make the effort of protecting themselves and others. So even that keep your mask on all the time. We can't assume everybody can afford the mask. Many people cannot afford the mask. And if they have to choose between the mask and eating frankly, they're going to buy some food


Melissa Fleming  35:39

sounds like there. There are a lot of things that concern you and worry you and and have the potential to keep you awake most nights. Is there anything that you're optimistic about?


Matshidiso Moeti  35:51

Yes, I, you know, I've been struck by the by the determination of African leaders to tackle this and to do this together. And then secondly, you hear a lot of stories about how people are helping each other African people are extremely resilient, and very communal that that sense of you will not abandon other people, even if we are poor, even if we're struggling. We think about each other, is still very strong in African societies. And that's what gives me a lot of hope. Over and beyond the COVID-19. It gives me a lot of hope about the continent in general. Really.


Melissa Fleming  36:36

Thank you so much for joining us at Awake At Night and I wish you all the best.


Matshidiso Moeti  36:42

Oh, thank you. That gave me the chance to think back to lots of things that was interesting too.


Melissa Fleming  36:48

Thank you for listening to Awake At Night. We'll be back soon with more incredible and inspiring stories from people working to do some good in this world at a time of this devastating pandemic. To find out more about the series and the extraordinary people featured, do visit un.org/awake-at-night. On Twitter. We're @UN and I'm @melissafleming Matshidiso is @MoetiTshidi. Subscribe to Awake At Night wherever you get your podcasts and please take the time to review us It does make a difference. Thanks to my colleagues at the UN and to my producers Bethany Bell and the team at Chalk and Blade Laura Sheeter, Fatuma Khaireh and Alex Portfelix. The original music for this podcast was written and performed by Nadine Shah and produced by Ben Hillier. The sound design and additional music was by Pascal Wyse.