By Ochuko Keyamo-Onyige, Country Manager, Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA)
As of March 16, nearly 150 countries and territories, representing every corner of the globe, have now reported at least one case of the novel coronavirus. In total, more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported with over 8,000 related deaths, with major outbreaks across the globe.
In Africa, the number of coronavirus cases has reached 443 confirmed across 30 countries with ten deaths, according to the African Union’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the list and figures are fast increasing.
Africa, a continent heavily burdened with malaria and poor health systems, is at high risk in these circumstances. There are increasing fears that COVID-19 could impact the fight against malaria, which claimed 405,000 lives in 2018, with Africa accounting for 94 percent of the global burden. The coronavirus is putting pressure on national health systems, and threatening the wellbeing of markets and businesses large and small.
According to the Global Fund, COVID-19 could derail progress on HIV, TB and malaria through disruption to access treatment or other interventions, or to supply chains of critical medicines and medical supplies. Experience from the 2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa suggests that unless mitigating action is taken, additional deaths from existing diseases such as malaria can be comparable or greater than those from the outbreak itself.
“We are seeing that the virus has a more severe impact on people with underlying health conditions and so it is logical to hypothesize that we may see more severe COVID-19 illness in a population that is malnourished, has malaria as well as a mound of other infections,” said Dr. Ngozi Erondu, an associate fellow in the Global Health Program at Chatham House in London. “There’s not enough data at the moment to quantify those risks,” she added.
The Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA) is committed to ending malaria in Africa, and is also a strong advocate for health system strengthening in countries. Strong health systems are critical to help countries manage diseases including COVID-19, malaria, etc., as well as future health challenges.
WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. All sections of our society – including government and businesses – have a role to play to slowing and containing the spread of this disease. CAMA will support the efforts of WHO and other global health organizations; we encourage countries, businesses and citizens to strictly adhere to WHO guidelines on preventing and managing the disease.