Test tubes with COVID-19 coronavirus labels on
Africa

Sitrep: What Challenges Does Africa Face Fighting Coronavirus?

Many African countries have put measures in place to try and stop the spread of coronavirus, while some nations are in lockdown.

Test tubes with COVID-19 coronavirus labels on

Coronavirus has spread throughout the world, taking hold of countries regardless of their economic or political stability.

Kate Dooley, Regional Director for West Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, said on the latest episode of BFBS Sitrep that Africa faces a "very different" challenge in dealing with the virus.

Many countries, including the UK, have placed their citizens into lockdown, but Ms Dooley said these measures have a “really disproportionate economic and social impact” in Africa.

“It’s a very different context [in Sierra Leone] and actually a lot of people in these poorest countries are really living literally hand to mouth - they have to go out every day to sell basic items to go to work and then buy basic goods for their families,” she said.

Alongside the challenges posed by extreme levels of poverty, Ms Dooley said some African countries do not have the infrastructure to deal with a pandemic on such a large scale.

“[Some African nations] also have very weak health systems already, very few health workers, people who don’t have training in how to use oxygen and ventilators and things like that, so I think it is very, very concerning for sure,” she said.

Ms Dooley said Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health has publicly said the country only has “14 or 15 ventilators", which is “about one ventilator per million of [the] population”.

British military personnel undergo medical training to deal with the Ebola outbreak in 2015.

Ms Dooley, who worked with the Sierra Leone government and the British military during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, said the current climate is very different.

She said at the time, "the whole world was watching" Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea but now the "the whole world is distracted with their own crises".

Ms Dooley said some African countries may need "immediate help".

“Hopefully there will be some more financial resources flowing and there's a lot of discussions happening particularly, say, at the G20 level,” she said.

Alongside the G20, Ms Dooley also explained the World Health Organisation is looking at its “coordination function” and the African Union is “standing up to look at solutions to coordinate responses and be a channel for financial assistance”.

However, African nations must also compete in the global market for much-needed supplies, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

“Globally, for the really critical supplies needed like PPE for health workers, everybody’s scrambling for that,” she said.

“You hear all sorts of stories about bidding wars between the Americans and South Americans and Asians, so Africa’s at a very significant disadvantage in terms of its resources."

You can hear the programme live on Thursdays on BFBS Radio 2 at 16:30 (UK time) and at 18:30 (UK time) BFBS via DAB+ across the UK. 

Listen online and via our radio App in the UK and overseas.  BFBS is also on FM in Scotland, Colchester, Salisbury Plain, Aldershot, Catterick, Brize Norton, Lisburn, Holywood, Aldergrove and Blandford Forum in the UK and on all overseas stations. 

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Cover image: (Picture: PA).