by Namibia Press Agency

The fight against Covid-19 will never be defeated without including Africa in the global response, the executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Winnie Byanyima, has said.

Byanyima in a media statement on Thursday raised concern that in much of the global Covid-19 conversation, Africa is barely mentioned but the risks that the Covid-19 crisis bring are even greater in Africa than elsewhere.

“And those risks will be compounded if Africa is marginalised in the global response,” she said.

She said beating Covid-19 in Africa, in turn, is essential for beating it worldwide. African leadership and global solidarity are both essential to overcoming the Covid-19 crisis in Africa, and Africa’s citizens demand nothing less.

Economic and social determinants of ill health are strong predictors of the likelihood of dying from Covid-19. The greatest risk will be for poor people in poor countries who have a much higher burden of existing illnesses, she said.

Byanyima noted that while Africa does have vital experience of managing epidemics it also has health systems which are largely under-resourced and often inaccessible to the poor, and not up to the job of beating Covid-19.

Beating back Covid-19 in Africa is possible, but not with an approach of business as usual, and there is urgent need to accelerate access to testing, ensuring equal access to equipment to protect frontline medical workers and treating the sick, said Byanyima.

In the same statement, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDCP), John Nkengasong, said the African Union (AU) through its ACDCP is taking a strong lead in the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The AU has created a new partnership as part of a joint continental strategy for the Covid-19 response, the Partnership to Accelerate Covid-19 Testing (Pact).

“As we have seen in other regions of the world, this is crucial to reduce the number of infections and deaths. Pact also calls for the rapid establishment of an ACDCP-led system for pool procurement of diagnostics and other Covid-19-related response commodities,” he said.

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