In picture above: A medical worker injects AstraZeneca’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a woman at the Nationa Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria and other West African countries risk new outbreaks of viral haemorrhagic fevers, Marburg and Ebola, risking huge strains on ill-equipped health systems.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, told a news conference on Thursday that the new outbreaks show the multitude of challenges that governments are fighting in parallel with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are particularly concerned about West Africa. Fighting multiple outbreaks is a complex challenge,” Moeti said.
On Monday, Ivory Coast began vaccinating its health workers against Ebola in the commercial capital, Abidjan, after a case of the deadly virus was confirmed over the weekend.
The country had on Saturday declared its first case of Ebola since 1994 but the authorities said it was an isolated case of an 18-year-old girl who travelled from neighbouring Guinea.
Last week in Guinea itself, the health authorities confirmed one death from Marburg, which is similar to Ebola.
According to Moeti, Africa faces more infectious disease outbreaks every year than any other region.
She added that health systems in West Africa in particular are weaker than in other parts of the continent, but did not give any specific numbers regarding staffing levels or hospital bed occupancy rates across the region.
Meanwhile, WHO data shows a surge in West African COVID-19 fatalities in the past month, especially in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria, accounting for the highest number of deaths since the pandemic began, all three of which have recently been hit with other outbreaks.