Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO

Africa’s health system weak to handle Coronavirus outbreak ─WHO

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

A number of African countries, including Nigeria, have expressed their institutional capacity and to contain the deadly Coronavirus if it breaks on the continent.

Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that African health systems would be ill-equipped to really respond to the deadly Coronavirus outbreak should cases start to proliferate on the continent.

AFP reports that Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, Saturday called on African Union (AU) member states “to come together to be more aggressive in attacking” the virus, known as COVID-19.

“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” Ghebreyesus, speaking by video link from Geneva, Switzerland, said during a meeting of African Health Ministers at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The outbreak which began in December 2019 has already killed more than 2,200 people and infected more than 75,500 in China.

More than 1,150 people have also been infected outside China, although Egypt is the only African country to have recorded a confirmed case.

There have been more than 200 suspected cases in the WHO’s AFRO region, which includes most African countries, though nearly all have been confirmed negative, Regional Director Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti said Saturday, February 22.

However, if COVID-19 starts to spread in Africa, the continent’s health systems will struggle to treat patients suffering from symptoms, such as respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure, WHO’s Tedros said.

“These patients require intensive care using equipment such as respiratory support machines that are, as you know, in short supply in many African countries and that’s a cause for concern,” he said.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission Chairman informed officials to take “drastic preventive and control measures”.

“Our dear continent, Africa, is particularly at risk, given its relatively fragile health systems,” he said.

African countries have been scrambling to develop the capacity to test for COVID-19.

In three weeks, the number of African countries capable of conducting their own tests has jumped from two to 26, Moeti said.

Several African airlines including Kenya Airways have suspended flights to China, although the continent’s biggest carrier Ethiopian Airlines has kept its China routes open.

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