Yara Manuela Cumbi: Fighting Covid has shown power of African ingenuity
Yara Manuela Cumbi of Mozambique is a Health Systems Analyst using multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches to achieve better health outcomes at local levels. She is committed to addressing gaps in the healthcare system by finding lasting public health solutions with beneficiaries in mind. She has worked across an array of public health projects including establishing a comprehensive approach to care for survivors of gender-based violence, evaluating Mozambique’s national tuberculosis program, HIV/AIDS primary healthcare, health research, human resources for health, supply chains for medical commodities, and more.
When the first rumbles of the pandemic indicated the potential of its destructive power, many were left wondering what the effects would be globally.
As Wuhan city was the first to shut down and then Western countries like Italy fell into serious distress, the question on many experts’ minds was: what catastrophe is awaiting Africa?
The reality was strikingly different from the predictions. Even accounting for the head start (many African countries had their first reported cases in March, one or two months later than those in Europe, North America and Asia), the continent has seen better outcomes and fewer cases. The worst hit African country is South Africa, which is currently at 16th place with over 750,000 cases, behind countries in North America, Europe and Latin America where the pandemic is raging (as of November 24th).
Africa’s leaders have risen to the challenge and overcome geographical, economic and political barriers. There has been inter-continental coordination and collaboration that has been absent in past pandemics and through other crises and a continental task force was assembled.
The solutions have been novel, taking countries’ unique contexts and challenges into account: a year-old genomics start-up in Nigeria launched a sizeable fund to address the inadequate testing; researchers in Uganda developed a coronavirus test. What we see here is a break from the narrative that developing countries are dependent on developed countries for knowledge, solutions and resources. When Africans create their own solutions, the responses are more flexible and more appropriate for country responses.
We must continue this trajectory by creating environments that foster and reward home-grown solutions. Scientific solutions to challenges in developing countries are being found by those from developing countries and can be used as an example the world over.
Read more articles from our ‘Voices of African women’ dossier.