Fred Ezeh, Abuja
World Health Organization (WHO), announced on Friday, that 12 countries in Africa are now experiencing local transmission of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
It emphasized that it’s crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission, insisting that such a scenario could present a major health challenge to countries with weak health system.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in a statement released on Friday, urged African leaders to learn from the experiences of other countries that have seen sharp decline in COVID-19 cases through rapid scale up of testing, isolation cases and meticulously tracking contacts.
She said that available records indicate that more than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 34 countries in Africa as of 19th March, indicating a sharp rise in new cases from 147 cases one week ago.
She said that, although, Africa has seen a significant increase in confirmed cases recently, but there are still fewer cases than in other parts of the world.
Dr. Moeti, insisted that understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic evolve in Africa is still a work in progress and the response will need to be adapted to the African context considering the fact that demographics on the continent are very different from China, Europe and the USA.
“Africa has the world’s youngest population and it appears that older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. However, preliminary analysis finds that people with underlying conditions are also at higher risk.
“Across Africa, nearly 26 million people are living with HIV. Over 58 million children have stunted growth due to malnutrition. So, it is possible that younger people will be more at risk in Africa than in other parts of the world,” she said.
She maintained that basic preventative measures by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“For this reason, WHO is helping local authorities craft radio messaging and TV spots to inform the public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken. WHO is also conducting rumour management in all affected countries, and is guiding countries on setting up call-centres and hotlines to ensure the public is informed,” she added in the statement.