Why a collective approach to Africa’s health is needed to fight this pandemic

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On Sunday, May 10th, statistics from the WorldOmeter showed that New York state had recorded 41 fatalities in 24 hours, down from a high of almost two thousand deaths in Mid April. This was a significant drop in deaths with total US fatalities dropping to below a thousand.

This is a similar drop being recorded all over the world with record low levels being recorded in European hotspots of Italy, France, Spain, and United Kingdown with figures almost going to double digits. It is expected that the effects of the disease might not be felt in a few months.

However, as global figures decline, the same can not be said of Africa which has since a significant rise, blatant disobeying containment measures, and rise of unscientific measures to curb the disease. According to Africa CDC, the AU backed entity, there are 63,293 confirmed cases spread across the continent with 2,290 deaths. The most affected countries are South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco which combined have over half of all the continents cases.

The graph has been lazily rising but steady with new figures being unveiled by local governments, though some have stopped regular briefings. While caution is still being employed, some countries are starting to ease on restrictions while countries like Tanzania and Madagascar are opting out of the WHO recommend intervention.

In fact, Madagascar has been touting itself as one of Africa’s healing nations, given the release and promotion of its herbal healing remedy. This has prompted countries across the continent to steer toward Madagascar with the hope that the concoction saves the estimated millions as the World Health Organization has indicated.

The WHO has warned that between 83,000 and 190,000 people in Africa could die of Covid-19 and 29 million to 44 million more could be infected in the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail.

The projection is based on prediction modeling that studied 47 African countries collectively with a population of one billion people.

This, however, is dependent on how African nations handle themselves moving forward. In East Africa, nations such as Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have taken extreme measures to ensure lockdowns and curfews. In light of that, they have also received considerable support from the IMF in the amount of billions in aid to enable their economies to remain sustainable.

Tanzania, on the other hand, has opted for its own national formula by keeping activities open, something similar to that of Sweden. The country has remained open, albeit with a conjecture that social distancing is important, yet the push to continue gatherings at churches and mosques are still being propagated.

Read also: Coronavirus: African leaders stuck with neglected, outdated healthcare systems(Opens in a new browser tab)

Despite taking an opposite stance on handling the Covid-19 closures, there has been a growing regional concern on how Tanzania has been handling the pandemic in addition to WHO’s disapproval on the country’s response.

Sadly, neighbouring countries such as Zambia have raised a red flag as more infections across the border continue to be recorded. In fact Zambia itself closed its border for all traffic indicating that many of the infections are coming through the Tanzania-Zambia border.

The Nakonde region, north of Zambia has reported a rise in infections which has led the Zambian government bar all types of traffic from Tanzania while Kenya’s Kajiado, Migori and Kwale regions which border Tanzania have received a big share of new infections. Uganda has had to contend with rising cases among truck drivers from Kenya and Tanzania. This has led to calls for the East Africa Community to take measures to compel Tanzania to take greater action to save the East African population from infection.

There has been a rising number of Covid-19 cases, with some not clearly being ruled as Coronavirus cases which has raised questions of the authenticity of tests mainly from China

The economic impact of closed borders has and will have major impediments to all countries in Africa. With the AfCTA hoping to come in place in 2021, the aim of African leaders should be to ensure trade routes are open and free of danger. The potential to make both the EAC and the SADC region as powerful trade hubs now depend on the governance of health measures as a healthy society is a prosperous society.

African leaders must collectively work on improving both national health as a means to ensure regional interdependencies as their neighbouring kin will directly benefit from the economic well-being espoused by a continental collective mindset.

It is the irregular and uncoordinated measures by leaders that are seeing the focus on Covid-19 turn to Africa. While most of Europe and America have depended on local interventions, Africa has mainly relied on external dependencies, thus importing testing kits as well as receiving donations mainly from China.

Over 500,000 swabs and test kits have been handed to Africa CDC with the aim of distributing them to the 54 African countries. Sparse testing capacity makes assessing the true burden of Covid-19 and implementing effective case isolation difficult.

For example Lancet notes that, by mid-April 2020, DR Congo was only doing around 200 tests per day, Senegal around 300 tests per day, and Ethiopia around 400 tests per day.  In addition, there are scarce resources for treating critically ill patients with COVID-19. Compared with the USA, a country with more than 120 000 ventilators, there are fewer than 2000 ventilators spread across 41 African countries, only five of which are in DR Congo.

Read also: Tanzanian President’s tirade on Covid-19 tests raise critical questions on Chinese test kits(Opens in a new browser tab)

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