This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African Region. The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 103 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
Cholera in Cameroon
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:
Cases of COVID-19 are rising rapidly across the WHO African Region, with a total of 39 countries in the Region now reporting cases, and an increase of 185% in confirmed cases (2 477) compared to the previous week (868). In addition, six countries (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivore, Ghana and South Africa) have recorded an exponential increase in confirmed cases in the past week. Most countries in the region are now experiencing local transmission in addition to the initial sporadic importation of cases. This trend is of grave concern in a continent in which health systems are fragile, with a high prevalence of HIV and malnutrition, and an increasing incidence of noncommunicable diseases. In addition, with many countries closing borders and very limited air travel in the region, challenges are emerging around the provision of essential goods such as laboratory reagents and personal protective equipment, as well as problems with deployment of experts to aid in the response. Governments in Africa can still change the trajectory and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its population through taking bold actions immediately before the window of opportunity closes. In countries experiencing local transmission, with clusters reported in several locations, thorough tracing of all contacts will be crucial to containment of the disease.
In addition, all countries need to implement proven public health measures such as social distancing, hand washing and cough etiquette.
The current outbreak of EVD in Democratic Republic of the Congo remains stable. However, challenges remain, with continued insecurity and population displacement in previous hotspots, limited access to affected communities and a shortage of resources for response activities. There remains a high risk of re-emergence of the virus in the period leading to the declaration of the end of the outbreak, as well as for several months after the declaration.