Covid-19 What about Africa?

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

2020 will long be remembered in the annals of history because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As that year drew to a close, the Covid-19 vaccine made its debut in several countries.

The question we need to ask, however, is whether the disease will wane as quickly as it spread if this vaccine is not made available to everyone. Will countries who have the “bargaining power” to obtain the vaccine quickly be adversely affected should poorer countries not have equal access to the vaccine?

In an interview with Vatican News, we asked Father Charles Chilufya to shed some light on the current situation in Africa, and specifically in Kenya, regarding Covid-19. Father Chilufya is the Coordinator of the Africa Task Force of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission, and the Director of the Justice and Ecology Office of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madasgascar, also known as JCAM.

Access to healthcare

As in the past, Africa has faced difficulties in responding adequately to the Coronavirus crisis. “Clearly, poor countries like those in Africa,” Father Chilufya explains, “especially the most densely populated ones like Nigeria, Kenya, and others, lack medical infrastructure and resources.” They are always “left vulnerable” and at the “mercy of wealthier states,” he says. “And this is not the first time.”

“Access to health facilities is a longstanding battle being fought on the African continent in particular. The issue, therefore, here is, in fact, not only about access to drugs but also access to general health facilities.”

Father Chilufya followed this statement up with two specific examples:

● Kenya: the recent strike of medical personnel in Kenya “complaining of insufficient protection as they watched some of their colleagues succumb to Covid-19”. Other reports cited Doctors in Kenya describing their jobs as “suicidal”, while others who contracted Covid-19 cannot afford the same care they have been providing to other Covid-19 patients.

● Liberia: during the ebola outbreak (2014-2015), medical workers “used plastic bags instead of medical gloves to protect themselves. And several deaths were reported among health workers in government-run health care centers.”

“Failures like these…not only violate health rights of patients but also put health workers and their family at risk.”

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