Inadequate health infrastructures are one of Africa’s challenges in this extraordinary time. South Africa is believed to have about 1,500 ventilators – breathing machines which are necessary to the care of COVID-19 patients. However, 10 African countries are reported to have no ventilator at all.
During the Ebola in crisis particularly the 2013-2014 outbreaks in West Africa and the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which started in 2018, about 20 African countries set up viral outbreak response protocols which they are now using and it is improving the response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
There are also reports of innovation taking place in Africa out of necessity. In Senegal, a laboratory has developed a $1 COVID-19 testing kit and engineers are also using 3D printers to make ventilators which cost $60 each.
In Kenya a team of 16 students from the engineering, nursing, medicine and pharmacy schools from Kenyatta University have developed a ventilator in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Across Africa efforts to produce facial masks are ongoing. Combined with contact tracing, social distancing measures, and stay at home orders the people of Africa hope to survive this the same way they survived Ebola and other viral outbreaks.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the time he declared a national disaster in March that, “Perhaps the greatest dangers to our country at this time are fear and ignorance,” and that “We should stop spreading fake and unverified news and creating further apprehension and alarm.”
The hope is that Africa as a whole will further learn from this crisis and wake up from complacency and make long term plans starting with significant investment in quality education.