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WHO AFRO Outbreaks and Other Emergencies Week 11: 9 - 15 March 2020 Data as reported by: 17:00; 15 March 2020

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This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African Region. The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 92 events in the region. This week’s main articles cover key new and ongoing events, including:

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the WHO African Region - Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo - Measles in Central Africa Republic - Humanitarian crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo

For each of these events, a brief description, followed by public health measures implemented and an interpretation of the situation is provided.

A table is provided at the end of the bulletin with information on all new and ongoing public health events currently being monitored in the region, as well as recent events that have largely been controlled and thus closed.

Major issues and challenges include:

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is rapidly evolving, with several countries in the WHO African Region reporting their first confirmed cases. Twenty-nine countries in the African continent have confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 19 reporting in the last week. While most countries on the continent have recorded sporadic and imported cases, few countries have exhibited local transmission. With this, the primary objective of the response in the African continent remains containment, which requires robust and comprehensive measures. The response to the pandemic calls for a “Whole of Government/Whole of Society” approach, which goes beyond the Ministries of Health. Going by what has been observed in China and now in Europe, African Governments need to heighten their preparedness, readiness and response capabilities, while preparing for all possible scenarios, including a situation where no external assistance is available. The use of innovative and lowcost interventions should be explored, for instance, large-scale provision of oxygen to patients as part of optimized treatment. Basic preventive measures at the personal and community levels remain the most powerful tool to limit rapid spread of the disease.

The measles outbreak in Central African Republic continues, with the urban districts of Bangui being the most affected. The national authorities and partners are undertaking various response measures, including supplemental immunization activities, based on the national response plan. However, effective implementation of the response plan is being challenged by inadequate resources and other operational challenges. There is a need for the national authorities and partners to step up response to the ongoing measles outbreak to avoid further escalation of the situation, with the emergence of COVID-19 in the country.