How Canada can support the fight against COVID-19 in Africa and globally

How Canada can support the fight against COVID-19 in Africa and globally

On May 15, 2020, ONE in Canada hosted a live discussion on the impact of COVID-19 in Africa and Canada’s role in fighting the pandemic on a global level. Joining the panel were Canada’s Minister of International Development, The Honourable Karina Gould; ONE’s Nigeria Director, Serah Makka Ugbabe; and independent Nigerian journalist, Peter Nkanga. As the number of cases in Africa are on the rise, this discussion is more important than ever.

ONE World Facebook Live: COVID-19 in Africa

LIVE: Today we were joined in an exclusive Facebook discussion by the Minister of International Development Karina Gould 🇨🇦 , Nigerian Journalist Peter Nkanga 🇳🇬 and Director for ONE Africa, Serah Ugbabe 🇳🇬
TV personality Sangita Patel hosted the interesting debate on how COVID-19 is affecting life in Africa and what Canada is doing to support a global response plan as part of #ONEWorld
Watch again here and let us know your comments below.

Posted by ONE on Friday, May 15, 2020

Although the panelists touched on many aspect of COVID-19’s impact in Africa, we did not have time to answer all the questions from the audience. Instead, the experts have provided the answers in writing.

Here are their responses.

Q&A with Minister Karina Gould

Do you think there will be pressure on foreign aid spending in the coming months, considering the scale of the post-Covid deficit? What do you tell folks who think Canada should focus its efforts entirely within Canada?Lara S., Caledonia, Ontario

The global challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. COVID-19 has shown that viruses know no borders. Canada has allocated international assistance to help respond to global needs, because the health of Canadians depends on the health of everyone, everywhere.

This pandemic has the potential to exacerbate inequalities and reverse development gains, especially for women and children who are already among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Canada has stepped forward and is doing its part, both globally and domestically. At the recent UN Summit on COVID-19 Pandemic recovery, co-hosted by Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “we know the best way to help all our people and economies rebound is to work together as a global community.”

A robust economic recovery can support future trade partnerships and our shared prosperity, security and well-being.

Africa has the largest number of youth ever experienced in the history of the world and COVID-19 has thrown African economies off balance, leading to massive layoffs. What are some of the interventions that Canada has put in place to mitigate the situation of youth unemployment in Africa?Stephanie Kusa, Kenya

Canada supports a number of initiatives in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania among other countries, aimed at increasing youth employability. These initiatives are helping strengthen youth entrepreneurial skills and knowledge, particularly for young women. In Nigeria, Canada partners with the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) to support business development and to increase income generating opportunities for women and youth in Bauchi State by engaging government and private sector stakeholders. In Mozambique, Canada partners with Colleges and Institutes Canada to increase economic opportunities for qualified women and men by enhancing their capacity to access the job market.

Canada also works with partners to promote Africa’s economic growth by enhancing our trade and investment relationship with African countries and by supporting efforts to reduce barriers to trade. These efforts contribute to the creation of jobs and opportunities for youth. Our commitment was also shown by recent ministerial visits to Africa. In early 2020, I visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, focusing on key areas of cooperation: humanitarian, health, and education. Mary Ng, our Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade also concluded a series of successful visits to South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia last February focusing on key areas of cooperation: women’s economic empowerment, open and rules-based trade, and sustainable growth that benefits everyone.

Various forms of misappropriation and mismanagement of funds from different foreign governments and international organizations can often limit the impact on healthcare access and delivery. What protocols and methods is Canada using to trace, monitor and account for the financial and in-kind assistance given to countries, the country-specific fund, to make sure that they are used efficiently?Akelewold Wagayehu Bekele, physician and ONE Champion in Ethiopia

We are committed to the appropriate and efficient use of international development assistance. The Department here at Global Affairs Canada conducts due diligence using a risk-based approach, including the assessment of fiduciary risks associated with our partners, projects and foreign governments.

We actively monitor progress towards results and reporting on expenditures received from our partners. Organizations are required to notify the Department immediately of any allegation or actual case of misuse of funds, fraud, bribery, corruption or financial irregularity.
The Department also conducts compliance audits using a risk-based approach and regularly undertakes project and program evaluations.

Q&A with Serah Ugbabe, ONE’s Nigeria Director

What could a surge of cases look like and are healthcare systems prepared?Citlalli Rios, Toronto, Ontario

A surge of cases in Africa could result in health facilities being quickly overwhelmed. This would be exacerbated by the fact that many of the continent’s healthcare systems have been underfunded for decades and lack equipment like personal protective equipment and ventilators which are essential in treating COVID-19 cases. Recent estimates show over 20 million citizens per ventilator in DR Congo. Furthermore, existing medical facilities lack the stocks of personal protective equipment to effectively and safely handle a surge in cases. Africa is chronically dependent on the rest of the world for medical equipment and PPE. This fact endangers medical professionals who are already among the most at-risk groups in the COVID-19 pandemic, even in countries with the most well-equipped facilities.

While many African healthcare systems benefit from knowledge and expertise in outbreak prevention and control gained during recent ebola outbreaks, healthcare systems across the continent remain chronically under-resourced and unable to effectively meet the healthcare needs of citizens, even in the most favourable conditions. In 2017, sub-Saharan Africa spent 5.18% of GDP on healthcare with countries like Angola and Eritrea spending less than 3%. The global average is 9.9%. Healthcare must become a bigger priority to governments across the continent if African countries are going to effectively withstand current and future infectious disease outbreaks.

In some African countries, 80% of people in lockdown could lose their income. What does that look like in practical terms?Vidhya Magendran, Toronto, Ontario

Losses of income as a result of COVID-19 will mostly affect the most vulnerable people, immediately resulting in increased food insecurity and malnutrition. Millions of Africans are already in precarious conditions with regards to food security. 1 in 5 people in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, nearly 60% of consumption expenditure is spent of food. 85% of Senegalese have already reported income loss with over a third eating less food. There have been food protests across the world. With trade blockages, agricultural production could shrink by up to 7% in sub-Saharan Africa and food imports could fall by 25% in 2020. These conditions would result in more expensive food available to the millions of food-insecure people in Africa. Governments are responding by opening up strategic food stores and expanding social welfare programmes. However, these efforts are largely inadequate in the face of the economic and agricultural challenges posed by the pandemic.

Losses of income and harsher economic conditions are also likely to result in higher crime rates and worse educational outcomes for African children. COVID-19 has already affected 90% of enrolled learners in 190 countries. As schools and students have adapted to the crisis, African children are at increased risk of falling further behind. Just 28% of Africans have access to the internet and just one in five of children pushed out of school during the recent 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic had access to radio education. The result of these setbacks to the education of African children could have far-reaching negative implications for the continent.

How have African governments been dealing with access to clean water?Claudia Possentini, London, UK

Access to clean water remains a challenge for many Africans, particularly affecting the health outcomes of children. For example, in West and Central Africa, less than 50 per cent of schools have access to water. The lack of access to water also affects healthcare facilities and homes. This is particularly dangerous because regular, thorough handwashing is one of the main WHO recommendations for protection against COVID-19. Several African countries are well behind national hygiene targets. In 2018, just under 50% of Ghana’s population was covered by the country’s hygiene standards. In Zambia the number was approximately 15%.

Mandating handwashing and the use of hand sanitizers has been an immediate response by governments. However, this does not solve the long-term issues with hygiene and water supply that African countries have long battled. Take Nigeria, for example. Nigeria has ambitious 2030 coverage targets including 100% coverage for urban and rural drinking water supply in urban and rural areas, as well as 100% hygiene promotion in schools and health facilities. However, despite ambitious targets and policies, the country continues to lag badly behind its own targets due to factors such as unavailability of financial resources for staff costs and education/training organizations. Nigeria and other African countries need to fix the problem of access to clean water by making it a policy priority and ensuring that policy implementation is well resourced and transparent.

To better understand, our Policy Manager explains how Canada can act now and end COVID-19 everywhere.

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