So far, Africa has managed to stay relatively free of COVID-19 despite China (where the virus originated) being the biggest trading partner in many African countries. With a population of 1.3 billion people, and weak health services, there is a worry as to how the continent will cope with the pandemic.
An article in the New Scientist last week reported that The World Health Organization (WHO) has stepped up efforts to try and help African countries with their ability to test for the Corona virus as well as train health professionals in caring for people with COVID-19. Only Senegal and South Africa had labs that could test for the virus at the end of January, but now, 37 countries have testing capability.
The first positive case of Corona virus was confirmed in Kenya on Friday and the government there has already started to put in measures. Last week, the Red Cross reported ongoing COVID-19 preparedness and response activities around the country. Kenya Red Cross volunteers, staff and board members are being trained on prevention and intervention measures by the Ministry of Health Department and County Government trainers.
Meanwhile, the UK Department for International Development announced a fund last week to tackle misinformation about COVID-19 in South East Asia and Africa. This aims to counter information being shared on miracle cures, advice that undermines health officials and messages promoting violence.
Crowds waiting for health and family planning services at one of our day clinics. These have now been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Our partners in Kenya and Uganda
This morning we heard from our partners in Kenya who have cancelled mobile health and family planning outreaches following the government directives to cancel large gatherings. In the rural areas we work in, these mobile outreaches can attract hundreds of people to a small area to receive healthcare and family planning services.
The Maa Trust (working near the Maasai Mara) and Mount Kenya Trust (working around the Mount Kenya National park) have both cancelled planned medical outreaches. They told us that the Kenyan Ministry of Heath has discouraged community activities run by Community Health Workers, unless or until they have training, to help control the outbreak.
Meanwhile in Uganda, Rwenzori Centre for Research and Advocacy (RCRA) are reporting low turn outs at their events even though there are no confirmed cases in this country. For them, the low turn-out at events gives an opportunity to increasing back-pack nurse services – which are either given in small groups or one to one. They hope that in this way, they can continue helping individuals.
Meanwhile, our environmental projects have not yet been effected, and tree planting continues with Watersheds Ecosystem Conservation.
Our partners in Kenya and Uganda are working closely with their local Ministry of Health offices. We expect that the Community Health Workers they employ will play a key role in raising awareness about COVID-19 over the coming weeks. We will keep you updated on the response, and our partners’ work throughout.