SEATTLE, Washington — The World Health Organization (WHO) is aiding Africa in an effort to help rebuild what the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged for people in regions across the continent. The COVID–19 pandemic has left a significant strain on Africa’s resources and health. Currently, the WHO is helping ensure that Africa receives essential services in order to mitigate the effects of the virus. This assistance further guarantees vulnerable populations and health services are increasingly prioritized.
Hunger During Quarantine
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected developing countries, including in Africa. A survey done by the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to COVID-19 (PERC) found that half of respondents estimated running out of “money and food in a week or less” if they had to miss work or stay at home. The survey collected responses from 28 cities with high population centers across the African continent. Furthermore, online analysis, including evaluation of social media, found that in countries such as Nigeria and Kenya, individuals had to break quarantine rules in order to search for food to survive the pandemic.
Training and Supplies
The WHO has supported Africa through the COVID-19 pandemic in several ways. Primarily, the WHO has worked to ensure countries are properly trained in the WHO standards of infection prevention and control in health facilities and public spaces. This includes training doctors and nurses on COVID-19 care for patients, especially in smaller countries. In April 2021, the United Nations collaborated with the WHO, the African Union and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Together, they had essential supplies shipped to 52 African countries. Additionally, the WHO’s regional office for Africa initiated several different shipments. These shipments include 2.1 million testing kits to 47 countries in Africa, according to updates from the organization.
Spread of Misinformation and Vaccines
Throughout the pandemic, the spread of misinformation was overwhelming. This misinformation was particularly harmful for public health during a time when accurate information was vital for survival. The WHO arranged for experts to provide guidance for effective risk communication to help guarantee individuals properly understand COVID-19 and methods prevent its spread. Though a significant task, continued messaging, including messaging from African governments, has begun to address and weaken the spread of misinformation.
As the race for complete immunity continues globally, the WHO has provided 7.7 million vaccines from the organization’s COVAX facility to 44 African countries. However, the urgency for more doses is still present as the continent has almost completely administrated their given vaccines.
Diseases in Africa
Despite a long history of battling global diseases, Africa only accounts for 1% of global health expenditures, as of 2015. The continent also carries 23% of the global disease burden. Africa has struggled to overcome global diseases such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the continent with another wave of major social and medical crises. Decades of work to ensure progress toward upgrading Africa’s healthcare system could potentially begin to fade after limited resources are expended due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has quickly set Africa back in the fight against global diseases.
As the WHO continues its work, countries around the continent simultaneously struggle and survive with varying amounts of international assistance. Although the WHO’s work with Africa has resulted in positive changes during the pandemic, serious progress requires greater efforts in funding and distributing aid.
– Jessica Barile
Photo: Wikimedia Commons