On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that an outbreak of the viral disease COVID-19 – first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China – had reached the level of a global pandemic. As of March 31, 2020 Africa, reported over 5,000 confirmed cases. However, according to the World Health Organization, the worst is yet to come. With limited resources and inadequate health systems, shortages of essential services like water and sanitation, as well as massive informal settlements and refugee camps, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa could be devastating. Facing this worsening crisis, the African Union and the United Nations have both issued emergency appeals to enhance efforts to strengthen the continent’s response to the pandemic.
The youth organisations from 11 African countries that African Monitor has been working with on the implementation of the SDGs are concerned on the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our continent and impending humanitarian crises.
“We are mindful of vulnerability of our communities to COVID-19 pandemic and current state of development in terms of lack of adequate provision of water, sanitation and hygiene, lack of adequate housing in urban areas, as well as mediums for information dissemination,” said Yared Tsegay, Senior Coordinator for Research and Advocacy at African Monitor.
Main challenges are likely to be; among others, overstretched health systems without sufficient essential medical resources such as personal protection equipment (PPE), laboratory and testing facilities, ICU facilities with ventilators as well as health workers. Restricted supply chain due to increased global demand for health care supplies.
There is fear that the enormous economic impact of the pandemic on African countries, particularly low-income countries, will lead to economic recession. Consequently, there is an urgent need to mobilise resources for the health sector to prepare for the outbreak as well as rollout of social security safety nets for citizens who have lost income during this period.
As the African Youth organisations, we:
- support the steps which are being taken by World Health Organization (WHO) and national governments at country level to contain the spread of COVID-19 and various preventative measures and urge all citizens to adhere to these measures to halt the spread of the virus.
- call African countries to collectively respond to COVID-19 by strengthening their health systems, mobilise resources for the Health sectors to provide services to citizens affected by the pandemic, unlocking the supply chain of pharmaceutical and essential medical resources, and collaboration among health systems and solidarity with African countries severely affected.
- Call for a coordinated effort to ensure the supply and availability of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, testing kits, protective gear, ventilators etc to combat COVID-19 and we support the African Union Bureau call for the international community to encourage open trade corridors, especially for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies.
- Support the call by African Union Bureau on G20 countries to provide an effective economic stimulus package that includes debt
- Support the call by the United Nations Conference for Trade Development (UNCTAD) call for a $2.5 trillion coronavirus crisis package for developing countries.
- Call on international financial institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank, New Development bank) to support funding the health sectors in developing countries, champion debt relief and stimulus packages.
- Call for social accountability of resources including donations from individuals and businesses- allocating same towards public education especially in hard to reach communities and providing relief to poor households and families impacted by the COVID-19.
After reflecting on the role of African youth within the whole society approach to fight the pandemic and being the primary tool to combat COVID-19 in mitigation measures through behaviours change;
We have therefore decided to set up the Africa Youth COVID-19 Action Network to coordinate the African youth response to COVID-19.
The Network will mobilise African youth to
- Share information and raise awareness on COVID-19 including preventative measures such as hand washing, social distancing and adhering to the national guidelines.
- We will work at the national and local levels in respective countries to disseminate information in languages and media accessible to the majority of our people.
- We will tackle misinformation and we will work with all stakeholders to ensure correct information reaches our people.
- Amplify the voice of those who are most vulnerable and ensure that the response to COVID-19 is guided by principle of “leave no one behind” by working with national and local governments to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable.
- Establish Community action networks to coordinate collaborative actions of non – governmental organizations, religious groups, traditional leaders and other stakeholders in response to the pandemic and promote youth volunteerism in support of national action.
- Advocate for a global response to support African countries to deal with the pandemic and contribute to the continental response on preventing/containing the spread of the virus, strengthening of health systems, mitigation measures to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic.