COVID-19: Shining the Light on Africa

3 mins read

Africa has faced epidemics throughout its history, from smallpox to recurrent epidemics of malaria, sleeping sickness, and many other lethal diseases. The spread of HIV infection across the continent, beginning in the 1980s, caused tens of millions of deaths, and multiple localized outbreaks of Ebola virus disease, most notably in West Africa in 2013–2016, caused thousands of deaths and great suffering. Responses to African epidemics have been challenged by limited in-frastructure and fragile healthcare systems, including the lack of adequate surveillance to assess the scope of the outbreak, and inadequate systems for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of disease. Yet Africa has also been the site of key advances in infectious disease control, including case containment and ring vaccination for smallpox; vector control and mass drug administration for onchocerciasis, malaria, and other vector-borne diseases; integrated community case management for common illnesses; effective treatment to facilitate prevention of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; and, most recently, development of treatments and a vaccine against Ebola virus disease. All countries, within Africa and beyond, have benefited from these advances.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic emerged in China in late 2019 and spread rapidly around the world in early 2020. The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Africa was reported in Egypt on February 14 and the second a day later in Algeria. By March, COVID-19 cases were being reported across most of the continent. As with the rest of the world, initial cases were imported from other regions, followed by local transmission. By early April, nearly every country in Africa reported COVID-19, with hundreds to thousands of cases reported in the hardest-hit countries, presumably many additional infections that were unidentified, and hundreds of deaths from COVID-19 noted across the continent. While at this writing the number of cases and deaths in Africa remains relatively low, compared with other regions, numbers are in-creasing steadily, and fears are mounting of a major humani-tarian crisis as transmission accelerates.

Africa has reacted quickly to COVID-19. An emergency meeting of African health ministers to discuss the pandemic was hosted by the African Union Commission on February 22, resulting in the rapid establishment of the Africa Taskforce …..… – Read more–—–

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