Dr John Nkengasong
Dr John Nkengasong

Pandemic-related challenges continue to plague Africa

By Nicola Daniels Time of article published May 13, 2021

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CHALLENGES around accessing food, income loss and patients skipping medical visits since the start of the pandemic remained prevalent in Africa.

This is according to the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to Covid-19 (Perc) study fielded in February, when Africa was emerging from the second, substantially larger wave.

The research also found that as the world battles new Covid-19 variants, the supply and roll-out of vaccines remained critically low in the continent.

Perc polled more than 24 000 adults across 19 AU member states, compiled social, economic and epidemiological data from a range of sources and compared results from the previous survey conducted in August 2020.

"As case counts surge across the world, new variants emerge and vaccine roll-outs remain slow, it will be crucial for AU member states to use evidence-based strategies to manage Covid-19," said the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong.

Fear of contracting Covid-19 continued to be the most common reason for missing care in the previous six months (26%), with 51% of respondents believing that health-care workers should be avoided because they might transmit Covid-19.

“Affordability of care was a further barrier for missing care (20%), probably related to secondary burdens such as income loss."

The report also found that income loss and food insecurity had worsened since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Food insecurity is a grave concern, with 81% of respondents reporting issues in accessing food, and 48% reported having to reduce the number or size of meals in the past week.”

Dr Tom Frieden, the president and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, said: “Countries are most effective controlling the pandemic when they consider what measures people will actually follow at this stage in the pandemic and take steps to inform, partner with, and support communities.”

Meanwhile households in lower-income groups were the most affected and least reached by social protection programmes (where such programmes exist at all).

The study recommended that countries prioritise targeted, individual public health and social measures to high-risk areas to maximise adherence in the long run and minimise secondary burdens. They should also increase their capacity to detect, test, sequence and trace cases and new Covid-19 variants.

Stepping up action from the global community to increase vaccine production locally was also recommended.

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