'We must work together' - WHO says Africa must not be left behind in monkeypox fight

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Dr. Matshidiso Moeti
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti
PHOTO: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan/Getty
  • The World Health Organisation is calling for a universal strategy that includes all continents in the fight against monkeypox.
  • It says Africa must not be left behind.
  • South Africa and Botswana say they are able to deal with the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is rallying its partners to come up with a plan that won't leave Africa behind in the fight against monkeypox.

"We must avoid having two different responses to monkeypox – one for western countries which are only now experiencing significant transmission and another for Africa," said the WHO's Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

Twenty-three non-endemic countries in Europe, America and Africa have reported 257 cases to the WHO.

Seven African countries reported nearly 1 400 monkeypox cases so far this year -  1 392 suspected and 44 confirmed cases - in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.

There has been a noticeable spread in Nigeria.

"For example, until 2019, monkeypox in Nigeria was reported mainly in the south of the country but since 2020, the virus has moved into central, eastern, and northern parts of the country," the WHO said in a statement.

The first monkeypox case recorded outside Africa was detected in the United Kingdom in a person who had a travel history to Nigeria in early May.

At the time, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) revealed that 15 cases had been recorded since January, but said it did not constitute an outbreak.

READ | Monkeypox: UK advises those with symptoms to abstain from sex as 71 more cases confirmed

In countries such as Nigeria and the DRC, monkeypox can be traced back to 1970 when the first human cases were detected.

Through the years, the disease has been a recurring motif. The WHO said lessons on dealing with it should be drawn from there.

Moeti added:

We must work together and have joined up global actions, which include Africa's experience, expertise and needs. This is the only way to ensure we reinforce surveillance and better understand the evolution of the disease while scaling up readiness and response to curb any further spread.

The WHO called on global leaders not to leave Africa behind.

"It is critical that the continent has equal access to effective monkeypox vaccines and that globally, we ensure vaccine doses reach every community in need," Dr Moeti added.

In Southern Africa, South Africa and Botswana issued statements to indicate that they can deal with monkeypox.

South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said it was confident the country could handle any outbreak.

NICD executive director, Professor Adrian Puren, told journalists that lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic would guide them.

READ | Monkeypox can be contained if we act now, WHO says

"Lessons learned from Covid-19 have illustrated that outbreaks in another part of the world can quickly become a global concern," he said.

Botswana's ministry of health and wellness' permanent secretary, Dr Christopher Nyanga, said the country was on high alert and advised nationals to adhere to strict health routines.

"The ministry advises Botswana and all residents of this country to remain vigilant and to avoid close physical contact with other people. Those who develop symptoms post-travel from countries with monkeypox cases should visit the nearest health facility for review," he said.

According to the WHO, vaccination against smallpox offers protection against monkeypox.

A new vaccine against smallpox and monkeypox has been approved but it is not yet widely available.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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