COVID-19: WHO Says Africa Death Toll Hits 269, as Cases Rise to 6,860 






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By Cecilia Ologunagba

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, says there are now 6,860 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on African continent with 269 deaths.

The UN’s health agency gave the update in its regional official twitter account @WHOAFRO.

“They are 6,860 cases on the African continent, with 269 reported deaths as at Friday.

“WHOAFRO urges all member states to continue enhancing information sharing mechanisms so we can better support in their fight against COVID-19,” it said.

The agency said South Africa currently had the highest in the region with 1, 462 cases and five deaths, Algeria 986 cases with 83 deaths and Cameroon has 306 confirmed cases with seven deaths.

“Nigeria has 190 confirmed cases, 20 have been discharged with two deaths,’’ it stated.

Meanwhile in a statement posted on the agency’s website, it stated that WHO Regional Office for Africa had hosted its first virtual ‘hackathon’ bringing together 100 leading innovators from across sub-Saharan Africa.

It was done in a bid to pioneer creative local solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic and address critical gaps in the regional response.

As COVID-19 spreads rapidly across Africa, raising concerns about the strain on already fragile health systems, it has become clear that “solutions in the response requires action beyond the health sector.

“Innovation can play a critical role in that regard. It should be part of our DNA going forward,’’ said Dr Moredreck Chibi, the WHO regional innovation adviser who facilitated the event.

Hackathon participants were split into eight focus groups, each of which was tasked with developing an innovative and scalable concept aligned with one of the eight pillars of WHO’s current COVID-19 response strategy:

The eight pillars of response strategy were coordination; surveillance, risk communication and community engagement, points of entry, laboratory, infection prevention and control, case management and continuity of essential health services, operational and logistics support.

Over the course of the three-day event, groups worked on their respective projects via Zoom and WhatsApp, where they also received regular guidance and mentorship from WHO’s innovation team at WHO Africa regional headquarters in Brazzaville.

On the final day of the event, each group pitched their project to a team of WHO experts. Proposals ranged from mobile-driven self-diagnosis, screening and mapping tools to alternative low-cost methods for producing personal protective equipment (PPE).

The three highest ranking groups would  now receive seed funding and further WHO support to help develop and implement their solutions.

“A lot of us have independently been working on solutions for COVID-19 on a small scale, but the hackathon gave us the opportunity and the platform to be able to expand on our ideas collectively across our diverse backgrounds”, said Laud Basing, a Ghanaian entrepreneur.

Basing’s group came out top of the overall rankings.

Their proposed solution uses a mobile platform that incorporates screening at the community level, mass testing and validation as well as the mapping of risk levels in different areas in real time for stakeholders including community health workers to then tailor their responses accordingly.

(NAN)

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