Dakar, Senegal - 19 March 2020. United Nations Agencies of West and Central Africa are ramping up their support to Member States in the region, to adequately prepare for and respond to the growing number of cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the region.
Regional Directors of UN agencies in the region discussed ways in which to step up their efforts on Thursday, 19 March 2020, agreeing practical measures to step their efforts, including enhancing technical and operational assistance to Governments in the region in a coordinated fashion. This may include, but not limited to prepositioning of stock of hygiene and sanitation items and food, ensuring that transport corridors continue to allow for the movement of goods, and that relevant technical experts are available.
The Acting Chairperson of the Regional Directors’ Group for West and Central Africa, Mabingue Ngom, emphasized the criticality of the UN focusing on strategic interventions that will support Governments to prepare for COVID-19 and respond to it in affected countries. This will be done under the overall guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, stressed the importance of rapid action to prepare for the pandemic, as the number of cases in Africa is increasing. She noted that 83 cases were reported over the last 24 hours, between 18 and 19 March.
“We must do our best to ensure that colleagues at country offices are supporting governments as best as they can.” She emphasized the need to ensure that there is collective solidarity and cooperation in containing and mitigating the spread.
Regional Directors are looking at critical measures such as the creation of a humanitarian corridor, and are requesting that governments, as they impose travel restrictions, facilitate the movement of response personnel and commodities.
UN agencies will seek to support governments ensure quick changes in behavior-change communication to flatten the potential curve that the virus may take, as well as support with rapid prepositioning of stock and availing of staff. The continent will also require support to deal with the economic fall out of the pandemic which is already affecting global markets.
The UN agencies and their partners are drawing lessons from successful interventions that helped to overcome the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in 2014 and 2016, as well as recent experience in China in overcoming the disease.
The West and Central Africa region is particularly fragile, given its weak health systems, ongoing conflicts, challenges of terrorism and extremism, as well as has access to limited resources. Therefore, the UN agencies will step up advocacy, increase political and resource mobilization in order to better support the national development plans.
The key message to prevent the spread of the pandemic has been focused on basic behavioral changes such as frequent and thorough hand washing, coughing into one’s elbow, and avoiding crowds and of course self-isolation.
1) Jacob Enoh Eben| Regional Communications Advisor, UNFPA WCARO (for the regional communications group)| firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: +221 77 358 66 62 – Dakar, Senegal
2) Mensah Y. L. Aluka| Regional Coordination Specialist and Head of UNSDG-WCA Secretariat | E-mail: email@example.com | Tel: +22177 529 5055 – Dakar, Senegal