I am delighted to have had the opportunity to work and travel in East Africa and I have a real passion for its people, its energy and its future development. The unique cultures, vibe, beauty and strong sense of community should not just be celebrated but honoured and maintained.

Currently the world is fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore understanding the lessons from large scale outbreaks around the World, could certainly help Africa apply some of the more successful measures within a local context.

"Globally the COVID-19 response has varied dramatically, based on culture, Governmental-priorities and fears. So what lessons can be learnt?"

Countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand and Singapore amongst others have established highly effective test and trace systems to help guide and determine when to introduce a lockdown, (be it local or national) and have in turn successfully limited its spread.

It is certainly clear that in Africa’s varying responses (country-by-country) to COVID-19, some approaches have been more effective than others. Transparency in providing and being guided by accurate data in terms of the rate of infection, is highly effective for both an individual country and all of its neighbours. Clear, verified and accurate information allows for a correct understanding of the virus spread and for control measures to be introduced at the most ‘appropriate’ time. A real challenge has been that some African Governments have downplayed infection figures for political gain, while others are accused of allegedly using COVID-19 control measures to justify increased security operations, curfews and other brutal interventions.

 

Handwashing facilities at the Lewa Childrens home, Kenya.Handwashing facilities in  Lewa Children's Home, Kenya.

Accessing accurate and transparent information is crucial; to combat against the local community or online spread of misinformation (dubbed ‘infodemic’). Such misinformation can take many forms, such as conspiracy theories, cultural stigma or rumours on subjects such as promoting alternative untested medicinal treatments that may prove to not just be unsuccessful but potentially dangerous, even fatal. Staggeringly the ‘American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’, estimated that approximately 5,800 people were admitted to hospital in the first three months of 2020 as a result of false information on social media.

The Kamili Team in personal protective equipment during the Covid-19 crisis. 

Securing land, sea and air borders and imposing quarantines on visitors from affected Countries is certainly of an utmost importance. Test and trace capability may be more difficult to achieve in many African communities, but understanding who is entering the country and from where, is certainly proving to be highly effective on a global scale. This should in principle allow for full (or local) lockdowns to occur at the ‘correct’ time (not too early or too late). Incorrectly timed lockdowns are not only counterproductive but economically catastrophic.

I strongly believe that in a continent where there is a lack of support for ‘informal workers’, lockdowns need to be carefully managed. Generally speaking very little or no economic support at all is provided to the hardest hit and already most vulnerable in society.

 Part 1 of 3

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Part 2 examines how poorly managed COVID-19 control-measures are having a catastrophic affect on access to other essential educational and healthcare services.


 Jonathan CONWAY is a Television Broadcast Journalist who has lived and worked in Uganda and dedicated his spare-time to write articles for Bread and Water for Africa UK on a voluntary basis.