W.H.O. urges Africa not to neglect other outbreaks despite COVID-19 focus

Cropped hand wearing a nitrile glove holding a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a syringe
Cropped hand wearing a nitrile glove holding a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a syringe. (Getty Images)

The World Health Organization appealed to its member states in Africa not to forget other disease outbreaks affecting the continent despite the concerted focus on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

W.H.O. Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti made the comments after she spoke during the 73rd World Health Assembly.

“I commend member states for their decisive action to control the pandemic, despite the cost to communities & economies. But we must not lose sight of other emergencies because of COVID-19. We continue working with countries responding to other outbreaks such as measles and Ebola,” Moeti said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently battling an Ebola outbreak in Équateur Province in the west. The outbreak, the 11th one in the vast country, was announced at the beginning of June and has so far killed more than 50 people.

Meanwhile, there is a measles outbreak spreading in South Sudan with the outbreak being exacerbated by other illnesses like severe malaria, pneumonia and severe malnutrition, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The W.H.O. and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently warned that the COVID-19 pandemic threatened significant disruptions to vaccination efforts and surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio and measles, in Africa.

“…unlike with COVID, we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles. What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action,” W.H.O. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“If we do that, children’s lives will be saved,” he added.