Covid shows that Africa must ensure its health safety, says Happi and Nkengasong.

The Covid-19 pandemic reveals the urgent need for Africa to be self-sufficient in health safety, with leading African health experts Christian Happi and John Nkengasong. January 6, 2022 Edition Of scientific journals Nature..

The fact that Africa struggles to vaccinate its population when developed countries are boosting their citizens shows that it is essential for Africa to ensure the safety of its own health. They say.

African leaders face tough choices, they say. Continents must embrace new ways of public health or risk failure in confronting the threat of infectious diseases in the 21st century and achieving the ambitious development goals of African Union Agenda 2063.

The authors are the directors of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ACEGID) and the retired directors of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), respectively, and propose five steps to achieve this goal.

Africa’s amazing reaction to Covid-19

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the African reaction was “remarkable,” says Happi and Nkengasong.

Africa has made “amazing advances” in its surveillance and public health response in recent years, and they say it is a “major player in the acquisition of scientific knowledge that has guided the global response” to Covid-19. ..

A few days after the first report of Covid-19 in Africa, an emergency meeting of the African Minister of Health was held to establish a joint continental strategy, and the swift and drastic measures taken by African countries to curb the spread of the virus. The continental response was swift and supportive at the ongoing conference at the continental level to coordinate the response through tactical measures.

These actions “in contrast to the inflexibility found in other parts of the world,” they say.

In a recent interview African business, NukengasonExpected to join the U.S. Government as an ambassador and coordinator of U.S. Government activities to combat HIV / AIDS globally at the State Department, describes the central role of the African CDC formed in 2016 in combat. did. virus.

“It’s like day and night when compared to how AU responded to the development of Ebola,” he said.

Happi and Nukengason argue that the swift response and coordinated action taken across the continent is responsible for at least some of the relatively low mortality rates found in Africa.

As of December 13, 2019, 8.9 million Covid-19 outbreaks and approximately 225,000 deaths across Africa indicate that up to 70 million Africans will be infected by June 2020. And in contrast to early predictions that more than 3 million people could die.

African reaction confuses critics

Most African countries are shown in red on the GHS index map, indicating high risk.

When Covid-19 struck in early 2020, the first thoughts about Africa were horrifying. Headlines such as “African countries are at serious risk” and “Bill Gates warns that coronaviruses can be more harmful to Africa than China.” Hannah Rider insists.

first time Global Health Security (GHS) Index Co-published in October 2019 by the Bloomberg School of Public Policy, Nuclear Threat Initiative, and Economist Intelligence Unit at Johns Hopkins University, there was a panel of reputed international experts to oversee it. It aimed to establish “a state of international capacity to prevent, detect and respond quickly to epidemic and pandemic threats.”

The index ranked Equatorial Guinea as the worst preparation among 195 countries (16.5 points out of 100 possible), with the United States (83.5), United Kingdom (77.9), and the Netherlands (75.6) being the best. It was prepared. The highest ranked African country is South Africa at 34th, followed by Kenya at 55th. China was ranked 51st.

By March 2020, with this kind of international consensus, experts were confused by the initial lack of cases in Africa. Headlines such as “Africa’s low coronavirus rate confuses health professionals” have appeared in France24.

Many problematic and descriptive stories have occasionally emerged, but for example, stories suggesting that African countries are underreported or undertested are derived from analysis in at most one country. It cannot be generalized.

Often not mentioned, swift and decisive action was an important commonality in Africa’s first response. Almost 70% of African countries have closed their borders and set a social distance before detecting 10 cases. The majority of African countries, at least in their capitals, introduced mask-wearing policies long before many European and American states.

Summary from “Does Covid-19 provide a new way to look at risk in Africa?”, Hannah Ryder, African Business, March 2021.

Happi and Nukengason also point out the important contribution Africa has made to genomics during the pandemic.South African researchers say beta Omicron A variant of the virus.

Disadvantages of multilateralism

However, despite Africa being “a major player in the acquisition of scientific knowledge that has guided the world’s response,” Africa is now lagging behind the rest of the world.

“Approximately 47% of the world’s people are fully vaccinated, and many countries around the world are giving their citizens additional (booster) doses. Still, Africa is still struggling. Target people Only about 7% of them achieve full coverage. “

This should “clearly remind African leaders of the vulnerabilities of international cooperation and multilateralism,” the authors say.

April 2020, Nukengason Talked to African business When African countries were having a hard time buying tests and other equipment to fight the pandemic. He said Africa’s shortage, rather than lack of funding and political will, was caused by richer countries that beat developing countries in their ability to purchase such important materials.

“We have learned that when the world challenges access to limited goods, global solidarity collapses,” he declared.

Multilateralism is always important in responding to epidemics and pandemics, but in the end, “Africa’s dependence on the outside world maintains a lack of trust in Africa both inside and outside the continent,” the happi coat said. Said Nukengason. Nature article.

5 steps for action

Africa’s move towards independence needs to be based on five steps.

  • Invest in health and illness. African leaders must respect the commitment to allocate at least 15% of the annual budget to the health sector. (See for more information on how the pandemic revealed a lack of investment in the African health system. “Coronavirus exposes the negligence of the African health system.”).
  • Build community management and capabilities. Strengthen national public health agencies. Empower the Africa CDC and its five regional cooperation centers.
  • Accelerate translational research and development. Africa currently imports 70-90% of its medicines. There are few biotechnology fields. Governments, philanthropists, and the private sector need to provide sustainable funding for research and development with a focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and vaccines of infectious and non-communicable diseases.
  • Invest in an early warning system. The Sentinel InitiativeThe author says that happi coat-led is an example of a promising program. For long-term effectiveness, such plans must be integrated into African public health agencies.
  • Build centralized governance. Ann African Pandemic Countermeasures and Response Organizations, As proposed by the African Union in October 2021, can empower the African CDC to coordinate cross-border pandemic responses.

Adopting this method of public health is “essential for Africa’s security and economic survival,” says Happi and Nkengasong. “It will also benefit the world, as demonstrated very strongly by the discovery of the Omicron variant in November 2021.”

John Nkengasong was featured as one of them in his sister magazine, New African. 100 Most Influential Africans 2021.

Covid shows that Africa must ensure its health safety, says Happi and Nkengasong.

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