• Friday, May 17, 2024
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Big lessons for Nigeria as Senegal leverages local resources in COVID-19 fight

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Ahead of all African peers, the United States of America, and France, Senegal is winning the fight against the coronavirus pandemic thanks to its researchers and local resources.

Senegal has built the scientific know-how to beat COVID-19 tapping into its Ebola management infrastructure and has developed a $1 test kit for the virus.

The West African French-speaking country is doing what most countries cannot, testing everyone, symptoms, or not. Unlike other countries too, there is no shortage of testing kits thanks to a laboratory at the Institut Pasteur.  Researchers are developing a $1 quick diagnostic test kit originally meant to test for dengue fever. Patients drop blood or saliva onto the devices and wait for a bloodline to appear, like the pregnancy test.

Read Also: Africa’s Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery: Elumelu moderates as presidents of Senegal, Liberia, US Senator Coons convene at UBA  Africa Day Conversations 2020

“There is no need for a highly equipped lab. It is a simple test that can be done anywhere. The idea is to rapidly-produce two to four million kits, for us and other African countries, so that we can detect and isolate patients quickly,” Amadou Sall, a scientist at Institut Pasteur told Aljazeera in an interview.

The sick are administered chloroquine, a cheap anti-malaria drug commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is pandemic. With only 50 ventilator machines, for 16 million people, Senegalese engineers are using 3D machines to produce more.

Imported ventilators cost $16, 000; these are just $60. Senegal is counting the cost and it is paying off. A month into the outbreak, it has suffered eight deaths, with most patients treated healed. The country has the largest rate of recovery in Africa, across third world countries and also ahead of the USA and France. While it has a tiny health budget compared to those countries, it has a wealth of experience, dealing with infectious diseases and outbreaks.

The first Senegalese to be infected with the virus was reported on March 2, nearly three months after the pandemic erupted in China. Twenty days later, President Macky Sall declared a state of health emergency in the country.

In most West African countries, measures have been set halfway between freedom of movement and total lockdown. In Senegal, President Macky Sall declared a state of a health emergency on March 23: a curfew was imposed between 8 pm and 6 am, during which the population is forbidden to roam the streets.

The lockdown is therefore limited to certain hours. Also, social distancing measures have been taken during the day, such as a ban on all gatherings, the imposition of a minimum distance of one metre in public transports, and the closure of many markets and all public spaces, among others.

Nigeria’s management of lockdowns has been criticised. Given Africa’s most populous country’s title as the poverty capital of the world, some have argued a better-adapted option could have been evolved.

“I believe the choice must not either death by hunger or death by Covid-19. We can evolve a wholly Nigerian solution to this pathogen based on our unique circumstances,” Chris Akor, a PhD candidate at the University of Alabama, USA said in a recent column on BusinessDay. The uniquely Nigerian approach “will allow the poor to earn their living and skillfully manage the pathogen until it goes away. In any case, as we would soon discover, poor Nigerians will not remain indoors and watch their children die of hunger.”