COVID-19: Impacts on AMI Programs
THE CORONA VIRUS IN AFRICA
As the Corona Virus (COVID-19) wreaks havoc on the countries of Europe and North America, many of us have been asking and wondering about the countries of Africa. It is not usual for contagious diseases spread to lag in Africa when compared to other countries, but rather Africa is often perceived as the place where many of the diseases originate and spread to the rest of the world. Most recent, in 2014-2017, there was the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak (EVD) in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and its current resurgence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Since the start of this Pandemic in late 2019, the 50 countries of sub-Saharan, have been largely spared and was not detected in this part of the continent until the end of February, 2020. Compared to countries in other parts of the world, the infection rate and spread of the virus has been relatively slow and as of mid-April only six countries have reported total cases of more than one hundred and only one with more than on thousand. But there is cause for great concern.
It is quite likely that there are many undiagnosed cases in these countries where testing is largely unavailable outside the larger hospitals. Globally, most of the affected countries continue to struggle to provide adequate testing. Since the initial symptoms of the disease mimic those of the common cold or flu, coupled with the fact that asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus, the numbers of infected persons are likely higher than the current reports indicate.
With very weak and grossly inadequate public systems, the identification, treatment and containment measures will also be grossly inadequate. If wealthy countries such as those in North America and Europe are having such a difficult time containing this virus, then the outlook for African countries is very bleak. Most of the infected will either recover on their own or die and be buried without diagnosis. The actual number of infections will never be known.
Containment measures such as social distancing, frequent hand washing use of hand sanitizers and masks are not affordable or impractical for most families and communities. With high poverty rates and little or no savings, the term “daily bread” take on a literal and personal meaning for most families that depend on daily economic activities in order to eat.
Working with our country partners, Agricultural Missions, Inc. is currently planning the implementation of a COVID-19 Education and Awareness program, along with installation of hand washing stations in several rural communities in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We are also working with the youth in these communities to produce staple food to meeting the impending food security crisis as a result of the virus and the impact of the restrictions of economic activity and movement of people that are part of the control measures.