COVID-19 Outbreak in Africa: Lessons and Insights from the West African Ebola Virus Disease Epidemics

Document Type: Mini Review

Author

Institute for Advanced Medical Research & Training (IAMRAT), College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria

Abstract

Over the years, the African continent has had to battle several outbreaks of infectious diseases in different countries. Some of the most deadly were the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks that occurred in West Africa between 2014 and 2016 affecting Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and, more recently, from 2018 to 2020 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that as a continent, we draw lessons and insights from our past experiences to guide outbreak response strategies being deployed to curb the latest onslaught. The Ebola outbreaks have shown that disease outbreaks should not be seen only as medical emergencies, but as full blown humanitarian crises, because oftentimes, their socio-economic impacts are more devastating than the more obvious cost to life. In this mini-review, we explore the possible humanitarian costs of the COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent by looking through the lens of our past experiences with the EVD outbreaks, highlighting how the current pandemic could significantly affect the African economy, food security, and vulnerable demographics, like children and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. We then proffer recommendations that could be instrumental in preventing a double tragedy involving the devastating health consequences of the virus itself and the deadly fallout from its multi-sectoral knock-on effects in African countries.

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