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COVID-19 Pandemic: World Health Organization Cautions Africa

Feature Article COVID-19 Pandemic: World Health Organization Cautions Africa
APR 19, 2020 LISTEN

The World Health Organization is projecting and alerting leaders in our Region (Arica) to prepare for possible surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming days.

You may disagree with W.H.O., but it will rather be wise to accept that the worst could happen and to get ourselves prepared for it will be far better than rubbishing such projection/caution. Experiences across the world have taught us that the real fight against COVID-19 is at the peak of the curve.

What do we stand to lose as a continent or country if we accept the projection put forward by the World Health Organization; prepare for the worst-case scenario and the surge in cases never happens? What do we stand to lose if we rather rubbish the projection of possible surge in cases and it eventually happens? Think about the two.

This pandemic, apart from its origin/prognosis being shrouded in a lot of conspiracy theories, it has also created seeming mistrusts between nations and we have seen some nations who are also beginning to showcase grand mistrust for a reputable international organization like the World Health Organization. An organization that has over the years helped protect the health of millions across the globe, particularly the poor and the vulnerable.

You may sit in Africa and speculate that, per the World Health Organization’s recent projections/caution, it is wishing doom for Africa. I rather see the World Health Organization’s caution as timely and relevant. Per the fragile nature of the health systems in Africa and our general attitude toward the containment of COVID-19, you don’t expect a world health governing body like W.H.O. to relax its risk communication strategy.

The W.H.O. “may” be using the fear appeal model/theory in its communication to Africans. And I see that as appropriate and timely because it may resonate with our attitudes to disease prevention and the very health systems we have built over the years. The benefits of employing the fear appeal model is well-grounded in scientific works such as the one (meta-analysis) done by Tannenbaum et al., (2018)… https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5789790/

Admonitions like this could help prevent leaders and citizens in Africa from going to sleep on our collective responsibilities in containing the virus. We may also want to find out why countries like the United State of America projected 200,000+ case fatalities? I may be wrong, but such projection may be grounded in the fear appeal model.

In any case, Africa is not a country, Africa is a continent, made up of many unique countries. It is up to individual countries in Africa to want to accept the World Health Organization’s caution or do otherwise.

I pray my country welcomes this caution from the World Health Organization in good faith, and come to the realization that W.H.O. is essentially telling us as a country to prepare to handle the overwhelming situation, while we handle the relative handful of cases momentarily.

There is no doubt about the tremendous job Ghana’s COVID-19 team is doing to contain this virus, even though there exist few lapses.

But I have also been wondering: per the data and information available, could Ghana’s COVID-19 team and our scientific experts also attempt giving us a localized (Ghanaian) model; where we probably have Ghana’s scientific projections/assumptions of when we are expected to peak (with projected numbers of morbidities and mortalities) and when we are expected to see a decline?

Yes, models may have their limitations and may not come with 100% precision. That notwithstanding, our Ghanaian model may help us see better into the future, help manage anxieties and get us all better prepared for the future.

Thanks to the President for the quality of leadership he has shown in this crisis thus far. And kudos to the COVID-19 team, our scientific experts, healthcare providers and everyone contributing his/her part to the fight against this dreadful virus.

Let’s continue to play our parts (no matter how small) because that is what we need to pull through this together.

#StayHome #StopTheSpread #StaySafe

Author: Samson Gbolu

Health Promotion Activist & Social Entrepreneur

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