Brazzaville – Africa today marks two years since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the continent. Countries across the region have made great efforts in combatting the pandemic in which more than 11 million cases and over 242 000 deaths have so far been recorded.
While the impact of COVID-19 has been widespread and devastating, Africa has drawn from its experience in responding to other outbreaks to tackle the pandemic, and with the support of World Health Organization (WHO) it has bolstered public health measures, learned crucial lessons, improved tactics and grown better at responding to the virus.
The continent’s capacity to manage COVID-19 cases has improved, with the increased availability of trained health workers, oxygen and other medical supplies. The number of Intensive Care Unit beds has increased across the continent, from 8 per 1 million people in 2020 to 20 today. WHO has also helped increase the number of oxygen production plants in Africa from 68 to 115 – a 60% rise – through supporting the repair, maintenance and procurement of new oxygen plants. Where plants have been set up, the cost of oxygen has decreased by 40%. Despite these improvements, oxygen availability remains a concern, and a large majority of patients who require oxygen as part of their clinical treatment plan are unable to access it.
“This year we can end the disruption and destruction the virus has left in its path, and gain back control over our lives,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Controlling this pandemic must be a priority, but we understand no two countries have had the same pandemic experience, and each country must, therefore, chart its own way out of this emergency.”
Although Africa’s pandemic response capacity has improved, the continent must now significantly ramp up COVID-19 vaccination coverage. Only 11% of the population is fully vaccinated so far. Vaccine supplies have increased in recent months and WHO is working with countries facing challenges to overcome the hurdles and widen vaccination reach.
- Credit: WHO Covid-19 Newsletter