Why COVID-19 in Africa matters to the rest of the world
By Yacine Djibo, Founder and Executive Director of Speak Up Africa
The first COVID-19 vaccines landed on the African continent in February. Since then, almost all countries in Africa have signed up to the COVAX program and over 16 million doses have been delivered.
However, it’s clear that we’re still a long way off from bringing the pandemic to an end. To rid the world of COVID-19, we need to ensure equitable access to vaccines. The recent emergence of rapidly-spreading variants has shown the risk posed when countries delay vaccinating their most vulnerable populations.
But it’s not only about access. Like any health intervention, over the years we’ve learned that successful immunization campaigns depend not only on mobilizing resources and countries’ support for research and development, but also communities’ willingness to take the vaccines offered to them.
At Speak Up Africa, we have a mandate to enable good health for all, and never has that been more critical than during the pandemic. Through championing action among policymakers and raising awareness among the general public, we advocate for ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are available, and encouraged, for those who need them most.
The spread of misinformation is not a new phenomenon in Africa, and its role in the COVID-19 response cannot be overlooked. When the virus first emerged, we knew we had to act, and fast. In the middle of an ‘infodemic’, our Stay Safe Africa campaign was designed and launched last year to empower communities to seek treatment for illness and follow routine immunization schedules safely within the national guidelines.
Now, our African Voices of Science initiative helps to address mistrust and fake news. We’re working with Africa’s leading scientists to champion research and development on the continent, build trust with the African public and generate an open public discourse on key health challenges and solutions.
At Speak Up Africa, we feel the future of global health lies in the hands of civil society organizations, the real agents of change who make the biggest impact on the ground. This June, the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases will present a milestone opportunity to advocate for increased resources to eliminate these diseases. Our March to Kigali campaign has already engaged over 50 civil society organizations in the lead up to the summit, who are calling on communities to demand more action from their leaders.
In the spirit of partnership, I also invite my fellow GHC members to ensure COVID-19 does not stand in our way for achieving Africa’s health targets. Click here to join us on the March!
About Speak Up Africa
Speak Up Africa is a policy and advocacy action tank dedicated to catalyzing leadership, enabling policy change, and increasing awareness for sustainable development in Africa. Speak Up Africa supports SDGs 1 to 6 in transforming societies throughout Africa and making sure every man, woman, and child is empowered to live a long and healthy life.
Through its platforms and relationships, and with the help of partners, Speak Up Africa ensures that policy makers meet implementers; that solutions are showcased and that every sector contributes critically to the dialogue and strives to form the blueprints for concrete action for sustainable development – from individual citizens and civil society groups to global donors and business leaders.
Yacine Djibo founded Speak Up Africa in 2011 to discover and implement effective, sustainable solutions to the most challenging problems facing the African people. Previously, Yacine worked as the Senegal country director for Malaria No More, where she developed and managed several high-profile national programs to promote malaria prevention and treatment. Yacine earned her bachelor’s degree in international relations and her MBA from Boston University.