East African nations muster funds to combat the pandemic and restore economic stability

AFRICA – The COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a health crisis and a human tragedy, but it also has far-reaching economic ramifications.

As of now, more than 182 million cases of COVID-19 had been recorded worldwide, with nearly 4 million deaths. The number of cases, and deaths, has been growing exponentially.

Compared to other regions, the number of recorded cases in Africa is still relatively small, totaling about 5.4 million cases across 47 African countries.

Even though the rate of transmission in Africa to date appears to be slower than that in the rest of the world, the pandemic could take a heavy toll across the continent if containment measures do not prove effective.

It is in this effect that governments of African nation have been on the run to seek financial aid to be able to contain the pandemic as well as protect their economies.

International monetary organizations have also stayed in the frontline to support African countries with funds to acquire and distribute vaccines and other protective equipment as well as offering economic buffering.

The World Bank has approved 14 billion shillings (about 130 million U.S. dollars) additional financing to help Kenya facilitate affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The lender said the financing will enable Kenya to procure more vaccines through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative and the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facilities.

Keith Hansen, World Bank country director for Kenya, said the additional funding comes at a critical time when Kenya is making concerted efforts to contain the rising cases of COVID-19 infections and accelerate the deployment of vaccines to a wider population.

“The upfront financing for the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines will enable the government to expand access to more Kenyans free of cost,” Hansen said.

The financial assistance will also be used for vaccine safety surveillance, training for health workers, and advocacy and communications activities to encourage COVID-19 vaccine uptake.

The East African nation has so far confirmed 182,884 total COVID-19 cases, 124,588 recoveries and 3,612 deaths.

Equally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1 billion loan to finance Uganda’s response to the COVID-19 crisis over the next three years.

The international financing institution in a statement posted on its website said the pandemic has caused economic and social strife in the East African country leading to a reversal of anti-poverty gains, deterioration of fiscal balances, and put pressure on external buffers.

The institution said the approval enables the immediate disbursement of about 258 million dollars to start on the response and help sustain a post-crisis inclusive recovery.

The country is currently under a partial lockdown that was instituted to contain the rapid spread of the pandemic. Economic experts warn that stringent containment measures are likely to negatively impact economic recovery efforts.

The new IMF financing comes over a year after the institution through an emergency fund loaned Uganda 491.5 million dollars to help contain the effects of the pandemic.

In the interim, Tanzania has committed to spend $470 million buying vaccines and supporting economic sectors hit hard by the coronavirus, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said.

Since Hassan took office after the death of then-president John Magufuli in March, the government has changed tack from playing down the pandemic to calling for social distancing and emphasizing mask wearing in public

Issuing the first data on infections since May 2020, Hassan said there were more than 100 COVID-19 patients in Tanzania as of last Saturday, with 70 of them being provided oxygen.

Half of the cash will be spent on vaccines, protective gear and other medical equipment, Hassan said, with the rest going to stimulate sectors that are reeling from the crisis.

She did not give details about the sectors but tourism, one of the top foreign exchange earners, has been one of the worst hit.

There are many organizations which are ready to support us,” she told Tanzanian news editors.

There is currently no coronavirus vaccination program in Tanzania, but the country has applied to join the World Health Organization-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing project.

The government is working with healthcare partners to develop a plan to distribute vaccines.

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