Contain & Innovate — African Success In COVID-19 Response
Three months ago, as the pandemic began to spread beyond Asia, many worried that Africa was particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Yet, so far, the toll has been relatively contained across the continent. In Africa, there have been a total of circa 200,000 recorded cases, compared to over two million in Europe and more than three million in the Americas. In several African nations, often without the same resources as more developed countries, the response has stood out for its success in implementing innovative medical equipment, effective quarantine measures and large-scale aid programs. Three examples, Namibia, Rwanda and Tunisia, have not only done well in curbing the impact of coronavirus, but also thinking to the future for how to handle future health crises.
NAMIBIA: The Southwest African country of nearly 2.5 million people has recorded zero deaths from coronavirus and only 31 confirmed cases, which may be partly attributable to low population density. Still, The Africa Report said key policies taken by both the government and non-governmental players also helped limit the spread.
Quick closure: President Hage G. Geingob declared a state of emergency after just the first two cases were recorded and quickly shut down international borders, quarantining the capital Windhoek. A national health care program was also implemented to make sure medical facilities were prepared to treat patients.
Direct aid: Though one of the most inequitable countries in the world in terms of economic prosperity, Namibia issued a one-time grant and food packages to the most vulnerable in society, including indigenous communities and those working in informal sectors. Businesses were also given stimulus packages.
Looking ahead: The government is using coronavirus as an opportunity to address deeper inequalities. As Prime Minister Saara Kuungongelwa-Amandhila said, it is necessary to "strengthen healthcare systems, ensure women are included (and) build resilience including economic resilience."
A woman is tested for COVID-19 in Windhoek, Namibia — Photo: Jacobina Mouton/Xinhua/ZUMA
RWANDA: The East African country took early steps to curb an outbreak, including a nationwide confinement, and hospitalizing those who tested positive to avoid overwhelming the health care system. Special treatment centers were also constructed at existing hospitals to avoid contamination and to allow hospitals to focus on serious cases requiring pulmonary care.
Hygiene: As Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana told RFI, "Before the containment measures, there were also other hygiene measures, which were applied throughout most of the territory, to ensure that people were preparing, even before the detection of the first cases of coronavirus on Rwandan soil."
Tech: The country turned to new tech during the pandemic, including producing ventilators in the country and partnering with the California start-up Zipline to deliver medicine to hard to reach places using drones.The United Nations Development Program in Rwanda also deployed five robots to conduct temperature screening, store medical records and patient monitoring.
Redistribution: To aid poor workers impacted by confinement measures, the umudugudu, the smallest Rwandan administrative entity, is distributing donations from wealthier citizens in the capital Kigali and beyond.
A motorcycle rider sanitizes a passenger's hands before carrying him in Kigali, Rwanda — Photo: Cyril Ndegeya/Xinhua/ ZUMA
TUNISIA: Since beginning the reopening on May 5, Tunisia has only had six recorded deaths (out of less than 50 since the start of the pandemic) from coronavirus and less than 100 new recorded cases.
Trust: Early implementation measures like thermal cameras in airports built public confidence in a unified government response early on, notes Benoit Delmas in Le Point, "By playing the transparency card, the emblematic democracy that emerged from the Arab Spring was able to control the pandemic."
AI: The Corona Bot, created by developers in Tunis, uses artificial intelligence to not only help those with coronavirus, but also those experiencing mental health issues brought on by the pandemic. It has already helped nearly 4,500 families in French and multiple Arabic dialects.
Teaming up: Tunisia has also partnered with neighboring Algeria to curb the spread of coronavirus and encourage economic revival. This is especially important for regional summer travel, given Tunisia's reliance on tourism: 8 to 14% of GDP comes from this industry.