from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
DAR-ES-SALAAM – GOVERNMENTS in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have joined forces to tackle the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which at the time of going to press had affected two countries in the regional bloc.
South Africa confirmed its first case on March 5. The cases had increased to seven by the time of publication.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) confirmed its first case on Tuesday (March 10) days after a countdown towards a declaration to the end of the deadly Ebola virus.
SADC Secretary-General, Dr Stragomena Tax, who spoke before the DRC case was confirmed, said the 16 member regional bloc would shift to response mode.
“Member states need to institute peer review mechanisms to validate self-assessment reports on readiness and requested national cooperation partners through World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control to support Member States in the development and implementation of country plans,” Tax said.
The Ministers of Health from the SADC countries agreed to harmonise and coordinate their efforts to respond to COVID-19 in the region.
Ten of the SADC member states have also agreed to share information on the COVID-19 outbreak.
“A problem shared is a problem halved,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said.
She said SADC countries must share the capacities available to them as much as possible.
“As we have seen with other health emergencies, there is a lot of expertise in the region. If countries have capacities in a particular area, they can support their neighbours,” Dr Moeti added.
Ummy Mwalimu, the Health Minister of Tanzania, chaired the meeting.
“We have re-established and expanded the terms of reference for the technical committee responsible for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health, comprising of directors of public health and directors of medical services,” Mwalimu stated.
SADC, with a combined population of 345 million people, comprises of Angola, Botswana, Comoros, DRC, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The confirmation of the first coronavirus case in DRC comes as a major blow as the country is on course to halt an outbreak of another deadly virus, Ebola, which recurred in August 2018.
It claimed the lives of over 2 000 people, making it the worst fatal in the country and the second-largest outbreak of the disease in global history.
“It is sad to hear that just as the DRC appears to be near ending its worst Ebola outbreak, a new virus is threatening the health of its citizens,” Dr Moeti said.
She said, however, some of the readiness efforts put in place during the Ebola outbreak might help the country respond to COVID-19.
“WHO is here to support you, just as we continue to do in the Ebola response,” Dr Moeti assured.
Eight other African countries have confirmed a case of COVID-19, namely, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Togo and Tunisia.
– CAJ News