Initial dire predictions around the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa have not come to pass. The fragility of many of Africa’s health systems—including underfunded hospitals, low doctor-to-patient ratios, high disease burdens, and gaps in access to vital pharmaceuticals and medical supplies such as ventilators—at first portended devastating outcomes for Africa’s citizens. So far, though, Africa has not been hit as hard as other regions of the world, partly due to efforts at the continental, national, and even individual levels of citizens who responded expeditiously to the lockdown and other measures. Then again, the continent is not yet out of the woods when it comes to the pandemic, especially as new, more infectious variants spread around the world.
Importantly, and unfortunately, COVID-19 will also likely not be the last pandemic, and Africa’s outcomes next time could very well be different. Lingering gaps in access to care (including medical staff and supplies), growing antibiotic resistance, increased incidence of noncommunicable diseases, and low levels of human development will continue to complicate Africa’s efforts to protect and improve the health of its citizens. With these obstacles in mind, how might and should Africa and its global partners improve their responses to current and future threats? What lessons have we learned from COVID-19, Ebola, and other endemic diseases that policymakers and implementers can apply going forward?
To reflect on the challenges and successes around the COVID-19 pandemic, on February 12, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative hosted Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong for a conversation on how the continent can be better prepared for the next pandemic. The conversation explored strategies for strengthening vital national public health institutions; increasing local production of medications, vaccines, and diagnostics; and investing in an effective public health workforce.
After the program, the panelists took audience questions. Viewers submitted questions for panelists via email to email@example.com or via Twitter at @BrookingsGlobal or by using #PandemicPrep.
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