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          Warning on lockdown / Challenges facing Africa

          What is the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control? ​

          In his daily press briefing on 22 April, the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned the international community about a disease that “will be with us for a long time” and warned of upward trends in COVID-19 cases in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central America and South America. A hasty lifting of lockdowns – the WHO adds – could cause a “reignition” of infections. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-52386386).

          It is the main topic of the day – from the United States to Italy, from Brazil to Sweden – the most discussed point on a planet that has found itself ill-prepared in the face of such a virulent pandemic and in a world that can no longer accept deaths without taking countermeasures. The following day, on 23 April, the WHO also reminded us that COVID-19 is not the only health challenge we face, and that the crisis in immunization services caused by Coronavirus risks triggering a resurgence of other diseases that can be prevented with safe and effective vaccines. On the eve of World Immunization Week (24-30 April), the WHO explains that, “when immunization services are disrupted, even for brief periods during emergencies, the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks, such as measles and polio, increases”. The case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is cited, where measles caused more than 6,000 deaths last year in a country that is already dealing with the Ebola outbreak (https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-04-2020-hard-fought-gains-in-immunization-coverage-at-risk-without-critical-health-services-warns-who). Africa, although with fewer infections than other continents, remains a great unknown. How do we deal with this?

          An important step was taken in mid-April by the virtual summit of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. “We support”, they wrote in a shared document, “a time-bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries that request forbearance” (https://g20.org/en/media/Documents/G20_FMCBG_Communiqu%C3%A9_EN%20(2).pdf). The agreement consists of a debt freeze for the poorest countries from 1 May until the end of the year, with an option to extend until the end of 2021. This is an important but probably ineffective step as Edwin Ikouria, Africa Executive Director of ONE Campaign writes in a commentary for the European Community channel Euronews. ONE Campaign is an international movement against extreme poverty and preventable diseases aiming for eradication by 2030. https://www.euronews.com/2020/04/20/g20-s-promise-of-a-debt-freeze-is-not-enough-for-africa-to-combat-the-covid-19-crisis-view

          “Globally, 64 countries - 30 of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa - spend more on repaying public debt than investment on public health”, writes Ikouria, according to whom the continent risks “losing 30 million jobs”.  According to the African Union, the exports and imports of African countries are expected to decline with an estimated loss of around €250 billion. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has estimated that the continent may lose half of its GDP growth (from 3.2% to 1.8%).

          Among the many actions that we as citizens can continue to do, remains the subject of informing accurately. Today, we would like to draw attention to a little-known European centre of excellence: the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu), the agency responsible for protecting Europe from infectious diseases. Its main functions cover a wide range of activities: monitoring, epidemiology, response, scientific advice, microbiology, public health, international relations and health communications in addition to the scientific journal Eurosurveillance (https://www.eurosurveillance.org).  Not just coronavirus.