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More than 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa

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More than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 34 countries in Africa as of 19 March, compared with 147 cases one week ago. Although the region has seen a significant increase in confirmed cases recently, there are still fewer cases than in other parts of the world.

“The rapid evolution of COVID-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “But we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.”

Twelve countries in the African region are now experiencing local transmission. It is crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission. Such a scenario will present a major challenge to countries with weak health systems.

“Africa can learn from the experiences of other countries which have seen a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases through rapidly scaling up testing, isolating cases and meticulously tracking contacts,” said Dr Moeti.

Understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve in Africa is still a work in progress. The response will need to be adapted to the African context – the demographics on the continent are very different from China, Europe and the USA. Africa has the world’s youngest population and it appears that older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. However, preliminary analysis finds that people with underlying conditions are at higher risk. Across the Region, nearly 26 million people are living with HIV. Over 58 million children have stunted growth due to malnutrition. So it is possible that younger people will be more at risk in Africa than in other parts of the world.

WHO has been supporting governments with early detection by providing COVID-19 testing kits to countries in Africa, training lab technicians, and strengthening surveillance in communities. Forty-five countries in Africa can now test for COVID-19: at the start of the outbreak only two could do so. WHO is also providing remote support to affected countries on the use of electronic data tools, so national health authorities can better understand the outbreak in their countries. Personal protective equipment has been shipped to 24 countries, and a second shipment is being prepared for countries with confirmed cases.

“COVID-19 is one of the biggest health challenges Africa has faced in a generation,” said Dr Moeti. “We can only stop this virus through solidarity. And the world is coming together. Donors are stepping up to the plate and providing funding while private sector in many countries are offering their support as well.”

Lessons learnt in addressing previous epidemics are being used as a foundation to respond.

Basic preventative measures by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  For this reason, WHO is helping local authorities craft radio messaging and TV spots to inform the public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken.  WHO is also conducting rumour management in all affected countries, and is guiding countries on setting up call-centres and hotlines to ensure the public is informed.

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UNICEF, WHO rally support for breastfeeding

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the  World Health Organisation (WHO) say that they are rallying supports for breastfeeding as the first pathway to preserving a  healthier planet.

The Nutritional Officer of  UNICEF in Ebonyi, Mr Cyprain Ogbonna,  gave the encouragement to people on Saturday in Abakaliki during an event to mark the starting of the  2020 celebration of World Breastfeeding week.

The theme of the World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.

The event is marked every year between Aug. 1 and  Aug. 7 to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants.

Ogbonna said that adequate breastfeeding had, over the years , prevented several childhood diseases and brought  lifelong positive benefits associated with child spacing.

He said  that other benefits include: risk reduction for some breast and ovarian cancers as well as hypertension.

He described breast milk as a nature-given-first food that needed to be preserved for its undebatable benefits to a mother and her baby.

He added that the milk was a critical part of a sustainable food system.

He said that it would be best to start breastfeeding within one hour of birth and exclusively done for the  first six months of life, after which mothers should introduce  appropriate complementary foods to her baby for  two years and beyond.

He  stated that misuse of breast milk substitutes should be condemned.

He advised that breastfeeding should be maintained, but hygienically done during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Ogbonna said: “Mothers are recommended to breastfeed their child or children within 30 minutes of birth.

“While mothers doing exclusive breastfeeds go for the first six months of life.

“Also mother or caregiver timely introduces complementary feeding based on local food products at six months while continuing breastfeeding up to two years and beyond,” he said.

Also, the Nutrition Manager of UNICEF in Enugu, Hanifa Namusoke, said that she had championed the cause in Ebonyi to increase the valve and improve the well being of mother and child.

Namusoke said in line with the theme, WHO and UNICEF called on governments to protect and promote a critical component of breastfeeding support.

“Breast milk is complete for a healthier planet and that is why WHO and UNICEF recommend optimal infant and young child feeding practices with emphasis on early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth,” Namusoke said.

NAN

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Covid-19: FCT Minister tasks health professionals on synergy

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The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, on Friday enjoined all health professionals to collaborate with each other to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bello gave the advice when a delegation from the FCT Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) paid a courtesy call on him in Abuja.

He noted that the successes recorded in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was largely due to the synergy between the various health professionals in the FCT.

Bello, therefore, urged them to continue to function as a unified team in the fight against COVID-19.

The minister commended the good works of all the health workers in the FCT especially for their efforts at combating the Coronavirus disease.

He pledged that the FCT Administration would continue to partner with the PSN as a large number of its members are staff of the FCTA who are also involved in the fight against the COVID-19.

Bello urged the PSN to forge a robust relationship with the National Drug Law enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in order to reduce the menace of drug abuse among residents of the territory.

Earlier, Chairman of the FCT PSN, Mr Jelili Kilani, commended the FCTA for the support it has always rendered to the association.

Kilani emphasised the need for greater collaboration between the PSN and the FCTA.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the PSN used the visit to donates Personal Protective Equipments, First Aid materials and hand hygiene products to the FCTA.

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Africa records 30% increase in COVID-19 cases– WHO

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By Cecilia Ologunagba

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there has been 30 per cent increase in the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the African Region in the past week.

WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, disclosed this in COVID-19 Situation Report posted on its official Twitter account @WHOAFRO on Thursday.

In external situation report number 19 issued on July 8, it stated that COVID-19 outbreak continued to grow in the WHO African Region.

It said the virus continued to grow since it was first detected in Algeria on 25 February, 2020.

“Since our last External Situation Report 18 issued on 1 July, 2020, a total of 91, 038 new confirmed COVID-19 cases (a 30 per cent increase) was reported from 45 countries.

“Of the 91, 038 reported new cases in the region, the majority 71 per cent (64, 646) were recorded in South Africa.

“South Africa remains the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the region and the country is now among the top 15 most affected countries globally.

“South Africa has the cumulative number of cases (215, 855) exceeding that for Turkey (206, 844), Germany (196, 944) and France (159, 568), which previously reported the highest numbers.

“On 4 July 2020, the WHO African Region and South Africa recorded their highest daily case count of 13, 474 and 10 853, respectively.’’

Similarly, it said the WHO African Region and South Africa registered the highest daily death toll of 225 and 192, respectively, on 7 July 2020.

“During this period, five countries in the region observed the highest percentage increase in incidence cases.

“Lesotho recorded 237 per cent increase (from 27 to 91 cases), Namibia 166 per cent (from 203 to 539 cases) and Madagascar 57 per cent (from 2, 214 to 3, 472 cases).

“Also, Malawi recorded 48 per cent increased (from 1,265 to 1, 877 cases) and South Africa 43 per cent (from 151, 209 to 215, 855 cases).

“Equatorial Guinea and United Republic of Tanzania did not officially submit reports indicating any confirmed case.

“A total of 119 new health worker infections were recorded from three countries: Ghana (70), Malawi (38), South Sudan (7), Sierra Leone (2), Gambia (1) and Lesotho (1).

“Two countries: Gambia and Lesotho reported their first health worker infection this reporting period,’’ it stated.

In addition, it stated that from 1 to 7 July, 2020, 1, 221 new COVID-19 related deaths (20 per cent increase) were registered in 33 countries, with 845 (69 per cent) of the deaths recorded in South Africa

This was followed by Nigeria, with 79 (6.5 per cent) deaths and then Algeria with 56 (4.6 per cent) deaths.

The report further stated that currently, 33 (70 per cent) countries in the region were experiencing community transmission, seven (15 per cent) have clusters of cases and seven (15 per cent) have sporadic cases of COVID-19.

It stated that the region had also observed increased incidence of importation of cases from affected countries within the region, largely fueled by long-distance truck drivers and illicit movement through porous borders.

(NAN)

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