The mantra of the World Health Organization (WHO) is “test, test, test”. But Africa can ill afford expensive, time-consuming testing.
That all may be set to change. Senegal is working with a British company to develop a quick, simple, one-dollar test.
More controversially, Senegal has been pioneering the use of an anti-malarial, chloroquine, to treat coronavirus patients.
The WHO says its effectiveness has not been established, and other medical institutions have warned against the hype surrounding the drug. But Senegalese government spokesman Abdou Latif Coulibaly told the BBC that doctors in the country had seen a “rapid improvement” in patients treated with chloroquine.
“The WHO is not going to tell us what to do,” he insisted. “Our doctors can do what they want.”
With nearly 8,000 confirmed cases across the continent, Africa has not been hit as hard as other places so far. But there are fears that if and when COVID-19 takes hold, it will be a catastrophe.
Initiatives such as the cheap test Senegal is developing will be essential in saving lives on a continent with weak healthcare and sanitation systems, and where people are often vulnerable because of underlying conditions such as malnutrition, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.