So far the continent of Africa has got off lightly in terms of numbers of cases of COVID-19 – but how long will it last?
The most recent figures we have seen here at Griot Creative suggest the virus has now been confirmed in 39 of Africa’s 54 countries. There were just over 2,500 cases by this weekend – tiny, compared to the population of 1.2 billion (data from Kasi Insight).
But, imagine the impact if the virus takes hold in the way we have seen in Italy or New York. Africa’s health provision is creaking in most countries. If Coronavirus sweeps across the continent it could be devastating.
So in the first of our blog posts from Africa we thought we would take a look at the impact so far in Kenya – a country I should have been landing in today, for a conference with the British Ambassador, to discuss the future of media in the country.
Our man in the country is Eric Kimori has a rational view of the pandemic panic that is bubbling. But, he says, leadership is being shown and the population is responding.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy have volunteered to take an 80% drop in salary for the duration of the situation,” writes Eric, “cabinet secretaries, speakers of the National Assembly and governors will take a 30% pay cut
“It may seem like a drop in the ocean, but the savings could purchase valuable drugs and other necessities in the country’s response to the pandemic.”
But it’s more than just political leadership that’s needed. And already the community response is overwhelming. In a sprawling slum on the outskirts of Nairobi a local youth centre Mathare One Stop is setting up public hand-washing areas (pictured below) and is delivering training on best practice for prevention of the spread of the virus
Across the country in Vihiga County the community development NGO Christian Partners Development Association is finding it very difficult to continue to support the most vulnerable members of society.
“Most of our programmes are highly interactive, whereby we meet our target beneficiaries in the field mostly through our advocacy, awareness creation and development implementation work,” says the organisation’s CEO Alice Kirambi.
“Although the government has avoided a total lock down of the country, it has warned of such future measures.”
In fact the country has launched a curfew this weekend, restricting movement of people between 7pm and 5am.
As CPDA works at the heart of gender rights and social inclusion it makes it very difficult to function.
Africa is nothing if not a continent of innovation and resilience. Of course it is hoped that the current low number of incidents will continue, but if there is a significant rise, the spirit of the people will once again rise to meet the challenge.