The lessons of West Africa’s Ebola’s crisis will save the continent from the worst of coronavirus

Source(s): Quartz

By Yomi Kazeem

The Ebola outbreak across West Africa between 2013 and 2014 was devasting taking more than 11,000 lives in three countries. And yet, it could have been so much worse but for the heroic actions of Nigerian doctor, Ameyo Stella Adadevoh.


As African countries appear at risk of another viral outbreak with COVID-19 (as the particular coronavirus strain in China is now known), effective containment this time around will likely require more than valiant heroics. The World Health Organization and other regional and country public health experts are very worried the “fragile” health systems in most African countries will be unable to cope if coronavirus takes hold on the continent. Even China with its larger pool of technical and financial resources, appears to be struggling to contain the virus.


Compared to 2014, there are already far more African countries capable of testing and diagnosing COVID-19 samples. Last week, the number of laboratories in Africa able to test samples of the virus had tripled with Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone joining a short list that previously only included Senegal and South Africa. For its part, Fallah says while Liberia still awaits chemical testing components for its lab, it already has the infrastructure in place to test COVID-19 samples. It’s a crucial step in preparedness given the importance of early detection and monitoring during viral outbreaks.


Given how long the process of vaccine development takes, behavior changes remain a low-hanging fruit for containing outbreaks. 


Optimizing authority figures to get the message serves a double-purpose of changing social behavior and winning the public over as allies to supplement weak health systems especially where gaps in surveillance and patient tracking can worsen the outbreak, as seen in Sierra Leone.


As African countries look to learn from what worked during the Ebola crisis, they can also learn from what didn’t, including quarantine methods.


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