19 June 2020 Volume :8 Issue :27

Webinar Focuses on Africa’s Response to COVID-19

Webinar Focuses on Africa’s Response to COVID-19
At the webinar were (from left) Professor Sihawukele Ngubane, Professor Johannes John-Langba, Dr Candice Moore and Professor Eugene Maafo Darteh.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN hosted a webinar that examined Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant impact on peace, security, public health and social development.

The event, facilitated by UKZN’s Professor Sihawukele Ngubane of the School of Arts, featured a panel of experts including Academic Leader for Research and Higher Degrees in the School of Applied Human Sciences at UKZN, Professor Johannes John-Langba; Senior Lecturer at UKZN’s School of Social Sciences, Dr Candice Moore, and Professor Eugene Maafo Darteh of the Department of Population and Health Studies at the University of the Cape Coast in Ghana.

In an analysis of the African response to the COVID-19 pandemic, John-Langba reflected on the most recent statistics provided by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention that shows all 55 African countries have now reported novel coronavirus cases.

He highlighted the challenges public health systems in Africa would face without robust financing mechanisms, a well-trained and adequately paid workforce, reliable epidemiological information to base decisions and policies on, well-maintained health infrastructures, and cutting-edge supply-chain and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies. ‘The likelihood of health systems on the continent becoming overwhelmed is high as the spread of the coronavirus peaks, given the weak and fragile state of public health systems in most African countries,’ he said.

John-Langba focused on the core functions of public health systems including health service delivery, creation and mobilisation of resources, healthcare financing and stewardship functions. He says in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic the stewardship of the national health system is particularly crucial for ensuring effective, efficient and optimum response to the pandemic. ‘This function mainly relates to the overall oversight role of the national health system as well as regulating the use of health resources, and collating and collecting information.’

Moore opened her discussion on issues around peace and security, emphasising the importance of strong state-society relations during the COVID-19 pandemic through government provision of access to healthcare and transparency in decisions taken in response to the virus.

Noting and drawing from the human security paradigm, that health, violence and the environment are key sites of insecurity in Africa, Moore explained that security threats often came from the most vulnerable in society, especially in health security.

She listed three central areas to be mindful of as they affected African security - urban areas potentially engulfed by urban tensions as people’s livelihoods suffer; existing areas of conflict where missions based in war torn countries face new ways of operating, and elections scheduled for this year in many African countries.

Said Moore: ‘It’s not all doom and gloom as Africa has some experience with pandemics through Ebola, and there has been swift and proactive responses at the highest levels, including the African Union. ’

Underlining the effects of COVID-19 at universities, Darteh examined the needs of students and the ability of Higher Education Institutions to provide adequate support services. He stressed the importance of universities being able to complete the academic year and the implications this would have. ‘We must prepare people’s minds to find a balance between traditional and modern ways of teaching,’ Darteh said.

Darteh highlighted the resistance institutions would face, saying a policy was required for online teaching to be embraced. ‘COVID-19 has taught us to embrace technology. We need to make sure that all students’ needs are met and the time to start is now!’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied

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