The news cycle has been dominated by coverage of COVID-19 — and while we have some news for you on the pandemic’s impact in Africa, we also have promising developments in the search for a vaccine, profiles of women who are changing the world, and some stories of hope and joy amid global shutdowns.
Countries brace for the spread of COVID-19 in Africa
Earlier this week, Rwanda became the first sub-Saharan African nation to order a total shutdown as COVID-19 spreads across the region. In Nigeria, most schools have closed, and in Lagos — Africa’s largest city — the government ordered 70% of the workforce to stay home. With more than 3,300 confirmed cases so far across Africa, nations are bracing for the imminent spread. But guidance like social distancing and handwashing for 20 seconds is difficult in highly congested areas, such as in informal settlements like Kiberia in Kenya. In the Democratic Republic of Congo — a nation already dealing with the Ebola outbreak and a measles outbreak — health ministers fear the impact of COVID-19. African leaders are also bracing for the economic impact of COVID-19. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is currently coordinating with African finance ministers to mobilise US$100 billion in financial support across Africa.
Promising developments on potential COVID-19 vaccines
Over 40 potential vaccines for COVID-19 are now in development, and the first phase of clinical trials have already begun. While a fully approved vaccine is still likely a year or more away, the pace of testing is remarkable, with some potential vaccines reaching clinical trials in record time. Beyond vaccine development, global organizations are stepping up: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has directed resources to lower-income countries to boost their health systems and ensure access to routine immunizations, and the Global Fund is directing its resources to COVID-19 responses. The World Bank Group has committed an initial US$14 billion to response efforts, and the IMF has announced US$50 billion in emergency financing.
The second patient cured of HIV reveals his identity
For the past year, the second person ever to be cured of HIV was known only as the “London Patient.” But earlier this month, Adam Castillejo stepped forward. “This is a unique position to be in, a unique and very humbling position,” he said. “I want to be an ambassador of hope.” Last year Adam received a bone-marrow transplant to treat his lymphoma. Because the donor carried a mutation that impeded the ability of HIV to enter cells, the transplant essentially replaced Adam’s immune system with one resistant to HIV. While Adam was successfully “cured” of HIV, the treatment is not a practical option for widespread HIV treatment, both because it was intended to treat his cancer and because of the risks involved. But the story still grabbed the world’s attention and sparked hope among researchers and doctors.
A new leader for the US Agency for International Development
There will be a new head of the USAID starting 10 April. Mark Green, the current USAID administrator, announced last week that he would step down after leading US global development efforts since August 2017. His replacement came as a surprise to the global development community: The Trump administration named John Barsa, head of USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, as the new leader, rather than promoting current Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, as many expected. Devex has the full story behind the surprising choice.
Taking time to celebrate women
This month marks Women’s History Month, and — while it feels like ages ago — the world marked International Women’s Day on 8 March. At ONE, we celebrated successful campaigning for new laws in Senegal to end gender-based violence. We highlighted four powerful women who are closing the gender gap — from political empowerment, to education, to health, to economic inclusion — and celebrated female inventors who are often under the radar.
We’re all in this together
COVID-19 reminds us that global health knows no borders, and global solidarity is needed now more than ever before. From Italian singers serenading health workers from their balconies, to community networks in South Africa, and the new “caremongering” trend in Canada, the world has come together in big and small ways. To get you through these times, the BBC has rounded up five headlines that show some hope, NPR has a list of concerts you can attend online, and a rugby commentator’s narration of everyday life has garnered more than 100 thousand followers. And Ugandan artist Bobi Wine is using music to spread awareness.