Stopping an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in Africa will require additional funding.
This was announced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), amid a worrying surge of cases in Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa.
National Red Cross teams in these seven countries are stepping up surveillance, testing, healthcare and hygiene activities.
They have also scaled up their COVID-19 awareness campaigns in public places such as markets and border points.
However, efforts like these ones, aimed at containing the spread of the virus, have been strained by insufficient funding. With a third wave looming large, there are increasing concerns that the impact will be more devastating, especially if the shortage of funds persists.
Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said that since the outset of this pandemic, not enough attention has been paid to the evolution of this virus on the African continent.
He said that lower levels of transmission data have created the perception that this region has not been so affected by the pandemic.
“The upward trend in the number of infections that we are now seeing, is partly as a result of insufficient funding to address several gaps in the response,” he said.
These include weak surveillance mechanisms; weak testing capacity; insufficient protective gear and medical equipment including hospital beds, oxygen and ambulance services. If these gaps are not addressed, the countries will continue to soar, followed by a peak in fatality rates, which is already being observed.
IFRC Africa says it has so far only received about half of the funds it requires to support 48 countries in their response to COVID-19. Crucially, these funds are almost depleted.
Red Cross and Red Crescent teams across Africa have been on the frontline of the response to COVID-19 since the outset.
They are providing ambulance services, conducting contact tracing, promoting, and ensuring adherence to public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus and supporting Infection, Prevention and Control measures at treatment and isolation facilities and point of entry screening.
They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation by providing educational materials, running radio campaigns and informational hotlines for the community and providing psychosocial support to people in need.
To address the secondary impacts of COVID-19, Red Cross Red Crescent teams have been providing cash to vulnerable families. Many of these vital prevention programmes are at risk, if more funding is not urgently secured.
Mukhier said: “Without adequate funding, we are unable to respond to the needs of the communities we serve or address the gaps and challenges of this response. The gains that have been made over the last year are at serious risk of being lost, if funding is not made available to help us continue to reach the most vulnerable and affected communities in Africa.”
The average number of new daily infections reported in Namibia and Zambia has reached a new high with 1,600 and 2,719 daily cases, respectively.
This is by far the highest rate of infection (over 100 per cent increase) observed in these countries. Mozambique is recording 400 daily cases, a 10-fold increase in comparison with previous months, Uganda is now detecting over 900 daily infections, and South Africa close to 18,000 daily cases.
In addition to lack of funding, there is the challenge of availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines: just over 1 percent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Most of the countries experiencing increasing trends have reported less than 5 percent of their population receiving at least one vaccine dose.
Furthermore, the response to COVID-19 in Africa is complicated by the existence of other parallel and mutually exacerbating emergency situations.
Rui Alberto Oliveira, IFRC’s Operations Manager for Africa said responding to COVID-19 in countries facing multiple crises, such as DR Congo, Sahel, Lake Chad, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan or Somalia, is extremely challenging, meaning the disease may continue to circulate unchecked.
“We cannot wait for the situation to deteriorate further before taking action. We must ensure that enough resources are made available, now, to halt the progress of the imminent, and potentially catastrophic, third wave of COVID-19 in Africa.”