- The DG of the WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, has warned the African continent not to let its guard down in battling the COVID-19 pandemic
- Dr Ghebreyesus lamented that the continent's volume of vaccination is not impressive enough
- President Kagame of Rwanda and Dr Okonjo-Iweala, WTO DG, shared some insights on what the continent needs to do to recover from the pandemic
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the African continent has not escaped from the coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO boss made this known on Tuesday, May 25, at the third edition of the annual UBA Africa Conversations organised to mark Africa Day and attended by Legit.ng.
The event which was moderated by billionaire Tony Elumelu featured four panellists including President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Dr Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the managing director of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Makhtar Diop.
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In his opening remarks, the WHO DG said:
"Although Africa has not yet seen the same scale of devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic as some other regions, the impact has still been profound for lives, livelihoods, systems and economies. The poor and the vulnerable are hit the hardest.
"Africa has not escaped COVID-19 and we cannot let down our guard. What is happening now in many other countries of the world can also happen in our continent."
Dr Ghebreyesus lamented that the African continent is not doing well enough in terms of the volumes of vaccinations though he noted that 47 countries have started vaccinating.
"So far, Africa has administered just over 25 million doses or 1.5% of the global total. This is very tragic."
He said the WHO is working day in and day out to bring immediate solutions for the equitable distribution of vaccines doses but Africa cannot rely solely on the import of vaccines from the rest of the world.
Dr Ghebreyesus continued:
"We must build that capacity not only for COVID-19 vaccines but for other vaccines and medical products.
"The cooperation of the public and the private sectors will be essential in these efforts. WHO is also working with the African Union to establish the Africa Medicines Agency and to build a strong regulatory institution for Africa.
"More than anything else, the pandemic has demonstrated that health is not a luxury item or simply an outcome of development. It's a human right and a prerequisite for social and economic development."
In his remarks, President Kagame said Africa has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the economic and social effects are very clear.
Adding that Africa is counting on its resilience to see it through the crisis, President Kagame said partnerships are important to recover from the pandemic.
The president disclosed that Rwanda is working together with other countries as a continent to build Africa's vaccine manufacturing capacity.
He also recommended allocating more funds to health in the national budget just as he added that the private sector has a big role to play.
Kagame noted that the next health crisis should not catch Africa unprepared again
Also speaking, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said Africa must take advantage of its youth demographic to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
She added that the world must reverse the vaccine inequity (where some countries have more and others did not) to sustainably recover from the pandemic.
"If we are to recover sustainably from this crisis, we have to correct the vaccine inequity that is so evident in the world today.
"The fact that we have vaccinated so little of our population is not acceptable."
Dr Okonjo-Iweala added that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just released a study where it was shown that if an additional $50 billion is spent to vaccinate 40% of the world's population by 2021 and up to 60% by 2022, the vaccine inequity will be reversed and the world can gain $9 trillion dollars by 2025.
"It is important for the world to reverse the vaccine inequity and ensure Africa benefits from it because we cannot recover sustainably without it."
The WTO reiterated Africa needs to increase its vaccination either by getting more vaccines from others or manufacturing its own, adding that her organisation stands ready to do its stake to keep the supply chains open.
Meanwhile, disturbed by the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian government has announced the reinstatement of all extant control measures aimed at mitigating the impact of the deadly scourge.
The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 reimposed the nationwide curfew earlier put in place to control the spread of the virus.
Legit.ng gathered that the committee also limited gatherings especially in enclosed spaces to a maximum of 50 persons, urging state governments to inaugurate mobile courts to try offenders.