Red Cross warns that insufficient funding is impeding Covid-19 response

KENYA – Halting an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in Africa will require additional funding. This has been announced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), amid a worrying surge of cases in African nations.

National Red Cross teams are stepping up surveillance, testing, healthcare and hygiene activities. They have also scaled up their COVID-19 awareness campaigns in public places such as markets and border points.

However, efforts like these ones, aimed at containing the spread of the virus, have been strained by insufficient funding. With a third wave looming large, there are increasing concerns that the impact will be more devastating, especially if the shortage of funds persists.

Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said that not enough attention has been paid to the evolution of this virus on the African continent. Lower levels of transmission data have created the perception that this region has not been so affected by the pandemic.

Gaps in weak surveillance mechanisms; weak testing capacity; insufficient protective gear and medical equipment including hospital beds, oxygen and ambulance services are being witnessed. If these gaps are not addressed, cases will continue to soar, followed by a peak in fatality rates, which is already being observed,” he added.

IFRC Africa has so far only received about half of the funds it requires to support 48 countries in their response to COVID-19. Crucially, these funds are almost depleted.

Red Cross Red Crescent teams across Africa have been on the frontline of the response to COVID-19 since the outset.

They are providing ambulance services, conducting contact tracing, promoting, and ensuring adherence to public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus and supporting in Infection Prevention and Control measures at treatment and isolation facilities and point of entry screening.

They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation by providing educational materials, running radio campaigns and informational hotlines for the community and providing psychosocial support to people in need.

The average number of new daily infections reported in Namibia and Zambia has reached a new high with 1,600 and 2,719 daily cases, respectively.

This is by far the highest rate of infection (over 100 per cent increase) observed in these countries. Mozambique is recording 400 daily cases, a 10-fold increase in comparison with previous months, Uganda is now detecting over 900 daily infections, and South Africa close to 18,000 daily cases.

Furthermore, the response to COVID-19 in Africa is complicated by the existence of other parallel and mutually exacerbating emergency situations.

Rui Alberto Oliveira, IFRC’s Operations Manager for Africa said responding to COVID-19 in countries facing multiple crises, such as DR Congo, Sahel, Lake Chad, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan or Somalia, is extremely challenging, meaning the disease may continue to circulate unchecked. “We cannot wait for the situation to deteriorate further before taking action. We must ensure that enough resources are made available, now, to halt the progress of the imminent, and potentially catastrophic, third wave of COVID-19 in Africa,” Oliviera said

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