COVID-19: ALIMA alerts on the critical situation in Africa
"Our apprehension is very strong because in many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, health systems are already very fragile. If the epidemic spreads to these regions, we can expect a mortality rate 3 to 5 times higher than in Europe or Asia," said Augustin Augier, Executive Director of ALIMA, to AP News*.
Focusing on a comprehensive response to the pandemic
In Africa, the care of critical cases (5% of cases) will probably be impossible, except for a few in the capitals, and the care of severe cases (15% of cases) will also be problematic given the low availability, or even non-existence, of specialized services capable of managing them. According to Augustin Augier: "A global response strategy must be found" because "if the epidemic hits hard in Africa, it will only return to Europe and the rest of the world."
In terms of infection prevention and control, the needs are considerable in the various health structures of African countries. Since January, ALIMA has been preparing to intervene on the continent, working alongside the health authorities of its countries of operation to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, border closures and the halt of air transport from Europe to Africa and within Africa are obstructing the mobility of medical experts and the supply of equipment. This situation is seriously paralysing the activities of ALIMA and other NGOs both on COVID-19 and other emergency operations: "This crisis is endangering the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide life-saving care to the most vulnerable populations," says Dr. Richard Kojan, anesthesiologist and President of ALIMA. ALIMA's modus operandi is based on partnership with national humanitarian actors, local doctors and civil society on the field. For a smooth operation, it is essential that regional managers are able to travel within African countries.
ALIMA's response in Senegal, Cameroon and Burkina Faso
ALIMA has been approached for support by the authorities of several African countries:
- In Senegal, where it intervenes in collaboration with the Pasteur Institute of Dakar and the University Hospital of Fann, ALIMA’s medical team works on the management of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- In Cameroon, ALIMA provides essential technical support, strengthens the capacity of hospitals and medical teams.
ALIMA’s response activities in Cameroon and Senegal will be financed for a period of 3 months by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, already a partner of ALIMA.
- In Burkina Faso, where the first death was announced yesterday by the WHO (World Health Organization), ALIMA is progressively organizing its support to official health structures in order to guarantee the safety of patients and health staff, and to increase the response capacity under national coordination.
Returning from a mission in Burkina Faso, Dr. Richard Kojan is worried: "In recent months, the country has been seriously affected by attacks by armed groups and local health structures are already in difficulty and will not be able to test and treat COVID-19 patients. The local ALIMA teams will do their utmost to provide the necessary technical expertise to support the health authorities in the coordination of the COVID-19 response.”
While the WHO calls on African countries to prepare for the worst in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, ALIMA reaffirms the importance of putting a "laissez-passer"/transport system in place for all NGOs as soon as possible. This initiative would make it possible to support the continent in the fight against this virus, and in general to continue to assist in all health crises and emergencies in Africa.
To support our actions to fight COVID-19 in Africa, additional funds are needed. We need you more than ever. Donate to the ALIMA Emergency Medical Fund.
*Learn more :
Cover photo: © Jennifer Lazuta / ALIMA