Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organisation (WHO), Regional Director for Africa, has paid tribute to African leaders for the progress they have made in their fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
Moeti gave the tribute on the official twitter account of the WHO Regional Office for Africa @WHOAFRO on Tuesday.
The regional director also commended Africans for their patience and support in the fight against the pandemic.
“So again, a shout out to African people, I thank them so much for the courage that they have shown, the forbearance under sometimes difficult circumstances.
“We are committed to continue in this fight with them.
“I would like to pay special tribute to African communities. It was said by the WHO Director General, Dr Tedro that our leaders have put in place some measures to control the pandemic.
“We have seen African countries take very tough decisions to put in place some of the control measures
“I am very pleased to have joined this celebration of Africa Day yesterday, and especially pleased to have been in the company of special envoys on COVID-19 in Africa,” she said.
Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity on May 25, 1963.
The Day is an opportunity to celebrate Africa’s vitality and diversity, and to promote African unity and it is celebrated in various countries on the African continent, as well as around the world.
At a news conference to mark the Day in Geneva, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said the Africa Day 2020 was set aside to mark the successes and progress made throughout the African continent.
In his speech posted on WHO website, the director-general said the celebrations were more muted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So far, although around half of the countries in the region have community transmission, concentrated mainly in major cities, Africa is the least affected region globally in terms of the number of cases and deaths reported to WHO.
“Africa has just 1.5 per cent of the world’s reported cases of COVID-19, and less than 0.1 per cent of the world’s deaths.
“Of course, these numbers don’t paint the full picture. Testing capacity in Africa is still being ramped up and there is a likelihood that some cases may be missed.
“But even so, Africa appears to have so far been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions,” Ghebreyesus said.
He said the early set-up of a leader’s coalition led by the African Union, under the chairmanship of President Ramaphosa of South Africa was key to rapidly accelerating preparedness efforts and issuing comprehensive control measures.
“Countries across Africa have garnered a great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases like polio, measles, Ebola, yellow fever, influenza and many more.
“Africa’s knowledge and experience of suppressing infectious diseases has been critical to rapidly scaling up an agile response to COVID-19.
“There has been solidarity across the continent. Labs in Senegal and South Africa were some of the first in the world to implement COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
“And beyond that they worked together with Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO to extend training for laboratory technicians for detection of COVID-19 and to build up the national capacity across the region,” he said.
Furthermore, he said health clinicians, scientists, researchers and academics from across Africa were collectively contributing to the worldwide understanding of COVID-19 disease.
“For many years and from the outset of this pandemic, WHO has been working through our country offices to support nations in health emergency preparedness and developing comprehensive national action plans to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.
“With WHO support, many African countries have made good progress in preparedness.
“All countries in Africa now have a preparedness and response plan in place, compared with less than a dozen in the first few weeks of the pandemic.
“48 countries in the region have a community engagement plan in place, compared with only 25 countries 10 weeks ago.
“And 51 have lab-testing capacity for COVID-19, compared with 40 countries 10 weeks ago; WHO continues to support Africa with other life-saving supplies,” the director general said.
According to him, as of last week, millions of personal protective equipment and lab tests had been shipped to 52 African countries.
“In the coming weeks we plan further shipments of PPE, oxygen concentrators and lab tests.
“However, we still see gaps and vulnerabilities. Only 19 per cent of countries in the region have an infection prevention and control programme and standards for water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities.
“And disruption to essential health services, such as vaccination campaigns and care for malaria, HIV and other diseases pose a huge risk,” Ghebreyesus said.