Cecilia Van Cauwenberghe from Frost & Sullivan’s TechVision Group, offers preliminary context about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in most African countries, starting with lessons to be learned from previous outbreaks
Different events, such as the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa and the rapid spread of other emerging viruses, including the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronaviruses and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), exposed a series of limitations in the global infection prevention and control (IPC) programmes. This fact has been severely augmented when combined with an inadequate water supply, poor sanitation and weak hygiene infrastructure in health facilities in various regions, including most African countries.
A team of researchers from the Institute of Global Health at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Geneva (Allegranzi et al., 2017) focus specifically on this lack of IPC programmes. The study exhibits essential facts about how hospitals and healthcare centres during such outbreaks have become hazardous focal points for patients and medical staff instead of serving the community in safe places where the disease should be controlled and treated. The authors reference a World Health Organization (WHO) communication that emphasises the negative consequences of defective IPC practices during healthcare delivery and how they can harm hundreds of millions of patients worldwide. The analysis, also supported by the evidence of other authors (Holmes et al., 2017), continues with inevitable criticism to healthcare systems exhibiting poor or lacking IPC programmes, followed by some strategies to build strong foundations to reduce the risks and spread of healthcare-related outbreaks.
The situation in most African countries
How to deal with prevalent infectious diseases and access to water, sanitation, and hygiene
Researchers working at the Institute of Community Health, University of Houston College of Pharmacy, Houston, Texas, U.S. (Essien et al., 2021) also highlight knowledge gaps, public health preparedness and research priorities related to COVID-19 infection. Their study focuses on people with HIV/AIDS in Africa and how the onset of the novel virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 threatened Africa’s public health systems. According to the researchers, the challenges faced by most African countries during the pre-existing epidemics, including the highly-rated incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS, dramatically increased with the emergence of COVID-19. The authors emphasise the evidence of the outcomes of people with HIV/AIDS with low CD4 cell counts during COVID-19 infection compared to individuals with restored immunity. In addition, they remark the disruption of HIV service delivery in most African countries and need to continue evaluating this particular area of research.
Another remarkable conjunct study presented by researchers from the European Commission–Joint Research Centre in Italy and the Universidad de Granada in Spain (Marcos-García et al., 2021) focuses on the relevancy of the lessons learned from previous outbreaks in Africa. The authors investigate how the incidence of other infectious diseases may increase if most resources are directed to tackle the emergency in the current COVID-19 pandemic context. According to the researchers, the most urgent needs are improving access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Although it seems a naïve approach, the lack of these services not only hampers the implementation of preventive measures against SARS-CoV-2 but also connects to high mortality. In this context, the investigators advise about building strategies to explore most African countries’ potential vulnerability to COVID-19, aiming to set strong foundations based on improvements in WASH systems.
I want to thank all contributors from the industry involved with developing and delivering this article from Frost & Sullivan.
Allegranzi, B., Kilpatrick, C., Storr, J., Kelley, E., Park, B.J. and Donaldson, L., 2017. Global infection prevention and control priorities 2018–22: a call for action. The Lancet Global Health, 5(12), pp.e1178-e1180. Essien, E.J., Mgbere, O., Iloanusi, S. and Abughosh, S.M., 2021. COVID- 19 Infection among People with HIV/AIDS in Africa: Knowledge Gaps, Public Health Preparedness and Research Priorities. International Journal of Maternal and Child Health and AIDS, 10(1), p.113.
Holmes, K.K., Bertozzi, S., Bloom, B.R., Jha, P., Gelband, H., DeMaria, L.M. and Horton, S., 2017. Major infectious diseases: key messages from disease control priorities. Major infectious diseases.
Marcos-Garcia, P., Carmona-Moreno, C., López-Puga, J. and García, A.R.R., 2021. COVID-19 pandemic in Africa: Is it time for water, sanitation and hygiene to climb up the ladder of global priorities? Science of the Total Environment, 791, p.148252.