SEATTLE, Washington — With only seven doctors per 1000 people, health experts worried that the coronavirus will devastate Senegal. A small West African nation home to only around 15.7 million people, the country does not have the resources many wealthier nations have. However, Senegal’s pandemic response, a combination of an efficient mobilization of resources and incorporation of lessons from previous pandemics, has allowed the country to keep cases around 15,000 and deaths at 329 as of November 19.
The Government’s Commitment
At the start of the pandemic, the government committed to provide a bed for every patient as well as every person that patient had contact with. This worked to reduce the chance of any major outbreaks of COVID-19 in Senegal. This strategy was especially important for the country as Senegal has a lot of large families living either together or near one another. Guaranteed isolation limited the potential for the disease to spread.
Past Lessons for the Present
The government also utilized lessons from Ebola in order to combat COVID-19 in Senegal. When Ebola hit West Africa in 2014, Senegal developed a government program called the COUS Health Emergency Operation Center in order to combat pandemics. COUS partnered with international organizations, ran mock outbreaks and created plans to respond to outbreaks. This allowed for faster resource mobilization than otherwise would have happened.
Additionally, the country was able to develop a system to rapidly test suspected cases. Because the country was able to deploy labs all across the country, many patients were able to get their test results as soon as 24 hours.
Economic Crisis in Senegal
The economic crisis associated with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns posed a real threat to local businesses, especially in the informal sector of the economy.
The Senegalese Government partnered with the World Bank to create the Improving Youth Employability Through Informal Apprenticeship Project for Senegal. This program attempts to help support internships and apprenticeships for young people as well as help them get employed.
The World Bank reports that this has not only helped with employment rates but also helped combat COVID-19 in Senegal. This is because the program supported seamstresses in creating 520,000 masks.
Other Initiatives in Senegal
Senegal instituted other reforms in order to combat COVID-19’s economic effects. The Economic and Social Resilience Program seeks to try and focus on maintaining the healthcare system and access to medical supplies, supporting private industries and strengthening the resilience of the population.
One key component of this economic assistance program is its focus on helping poor families stay in their homes. Given the potential for mass unemployment, keeping the lights on and energy flowing to homes in order to allow people to cook for themselves is critical. Because of this, part of the aid package is geared specifically towards poorer families in need of economic assistance.
Senegal’s pandemic response is a sign of hope for possible future pandemics. Early responses, planning ahead and partnering with international institutions can all be effective tools to keep a population safe.