As wealthy nations wrestle, Africa’s virus response is praised

Johannesburg, September 22

At a lecture to friends this month, John Nkengasong confirmed photos that after dogged Africa, with {a magazine} cowl declaring it “The Hopeless Continent.”

Then he quoted Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah: “It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity.”

The coronavirus pandemic has fractured world relationships. But as director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nkengasong has helped to steer Africa’s 54 international locations into an alliance praised as responding higher than some richer international locations, together with the United States.

A former US CDC official, he modelled Africa’s model after his ex-employer.

Nkengasong is pained to see the US company wrestle.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he did not identify US President Donald Trump however cited “factors we all know.” While the US nears 200,000 COVID-19 deaths and the world approaches 1 million, Africa’s surge has been levelling off.

Its 1.four million confirmed circumstances are removed from the horrors predicted. Antibody testing is anticipated to indicate many extra infections, however most circumstances are asymptomatic.

Just over 34,000 deaths are confirmed on the continent of 1.three billion folks.

“Africa is doing a lot of things right the rest of the world isn’t,” mentioned Gayle Smith, a former administrator with the US Agency for International Development.

She’s watched in astonishment as Washington seems to be inward as an alternative of main the world.

But Africa “is a great story and one that needs to be told.” Nkengasong, whom the Gates Foundation honours Tuesday with its Global Goalkeeper Award as a “relentless proponent of global collaboration,” is the continent’s most seen narrator.

The Cameroon-born virologist insists that Africa can stand as much as COVID-19 if given a combating likelihood.

Early modeling assumed “a large number of Africans would just die,” Nkengasong mentioned.

The Africa CDC determined to not subject projections. “When I seemed on the information and the assumptions, I wasn’t satisfied,” he mentioned.

Health specialists level to Africa’s youthful inhabitants as a consider why COVID-19 hasn’t taken a bigger toll, together with swift lockdowns and the later arrival of the virus.

“Be patient,” Nkengasong mentioned. “There’s a lot we still don’t know.” He warns in opposition to complacency, saying a single case can spark a brand new surge.

As Africa’s prime public well being official, main an company launched solely three years in the past, he plunged into the race for medical provides and now a vaccine. At first, it was a shock.

“The collapse of global cooperation and a failure of international solidarity have shoved Africa out of the diagnostics market,” Nkengasong wrote within the journal Nature in April. “If Africa loses, the world loses.” Supplies slowly improved, and African international locations have carried out 13 million assessments, sufficient to cowl 1 per cent of the continent’s inhabitants. But the perfect is 13 million assessments per 30 days, Nkengasong mentioned.

He and different African leaders are haunted by the recollections of 12 million Africans dying throughout the decade it took for reasonably priced HIV medication to achieve the continent. That should not occur once more, he mentioned.

This week, extra world leaders than ever are gathering on-line for the most important world endeavour since COVID-19 appeared, the United Nations General Assembly.

If Nkengasong may deal with them, he would say this: “We should be very careful that history doesn’t record us on the wrong side of it.” African leaders are anticipated to say a lot the identical.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown we have no option but to depend on each other,” Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, advised the gathering on Monday.

Nkengasong urges African international locations to not anticipate assist and rejects the picture of the continent holding a begging bowl. The cash is there, he mentioned.

Acting on that concept, Africa’s private and non-private sectors created a web based buying platform to focus their negotiating energy, launched by the African Union to purchase instantly from producers. Governments can browse and purchase fast testing kits, N95 masks and ventilators, some now manufactured in Africa in one other marketing campaign endorsed by heads of state.

Impressed, Caribbean international locations have signed on.

“It’s the only part of the world I’m aware of that actually built a supply chain,” mentioned Smith, the previous USAID chief. When the pandemic started, simply two African international locations may check for the coronavirus.

Now all can. Nkengasong was struck by how a lot data “would not get translated” to member states, so the Africa CDC holds on-line coaching on all the pieces from safely dealing with our bodies to genomic surveillance.

“I look at Africa and I look at the U.S., and I’m more optimistic about Africa, to be honest, because of the leadership there and doing their best despite limited resources,” mentioned Sema Sgaier, director of the Surgo Foundation, which produced a COVID-19 vulnerability index for every area. She spoke whilst Africa’s circumstances have been surging weeks in the past.

With COVID-19 vaccines the subsequent pressing subject, African international locations held a convention to insist on equitable entry and discover manufacturing to finish their virtually full reliance on the skin world. They started securing the late-stage medical trials that lengthy have been held outdoors the continent, aiming to land 10 as quickly as attainable. — AP

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