In the early autumn of 2020, Africa received positive press about its response to the SARS-CoV-2 (also known as COVID-19) pandemic. Given the fragility of many of the continent’s health systems, many had initially feared that the impact of SARS-CoV-2 would be devastating. Indeed, Africa has the largest burden of endemic diseases in the world, and SARS-CoV-2 could abolish decades of progress in the fight against these diseases by disrupting health care provision and access to medications. In addition, as the world races for access to critical diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines, protectionism rises. With limited local manufacturing capacity, Africa is particularly vulnerable to such dynamics.
John Nkengasong explains why despite successes in the face of the pandemic Africa’s public health network requires vastly increased funding and a structural overhaul in order to meet the needs of the continent’s rapidly expanding population.Africa Needs Investment in a New Public Health Order Thankfully, as of this fall, Africa had counted just about 1.5 million cases and 40,000 deaths—far, far fewer than other, often richer, regions of the world. Public health experts largely attributed Africa’s success so far to favorable socio-economic, demographic, and environmental factors, but also to rapid and determined political action. Indeed, many African countries were quick to introduce containment measures, such as lockdowns. The continent has also approached the crisis largely as a bloc: Even before the first case was confirmed in sub-Saharan Africa, the health ministers of the member states of the African Union held an emergency meeting to prepare for the pandemic and, fewer than six weeks after the first reported case on the African continent in Egypt on February 14, released the Joint Africa Continental Strategy on COVID-19.
Read the full article about Africa’s response to COVID-19 by John Nkengasong at Brookings.
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