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WHO AFRO Outbreaks and Other Emergencies Week 12: 16 - 22 March 2020 Data as reported by: 17:00; 22 March 2020

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This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African Region. The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 92 events in the region. This week’s main articles cover key new and ongoing events, including:

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the WHO African Region
  • Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso

For each of these events, a brief description, followed by public health measures implemented and an interpretation of the situation is provided.

A table is provided at the end of the bulletin with information on all new and ongoing public health events currently being monitored in the region, as well as recent events that have largely been controlled and thus closed.

Major issues and challenges include:

  • The African continent is rapidly being engulfed by the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with 43 countries reporting confirmed cases and a few countries beginning to exhibit community transmission. The number of deaths is also growing. This recent trend is concerning as most of the low-income African countries have several vulnerabilities, including fragile health systems to cope up with high caseloads, high prevalence of HIV, malnutrition and a rising incidence of non-communicable and other chronic illnesses. Governments in Africa can still change the trajectory and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their populations by taking bold actions now, before the window of opportunity closes. Countries that are reporting sporadic cases and clusters of cases can suppress and control the epidemics by isolating, testing and treating confirmed cases and meticulously tracing all potential contacts. Countries experiencing community transmission should adapt wide ranging mitigation measures to slow transmission of the virus and reduce the burden on the health system. Countries need to promote strict adherence to social distancing measures and good personal hygiene practices and cough etiquette.

  • The humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso continues to deteriorate, with an increasing intensity of armed attacks and a rapid rise in the number of displaced persons. The displaced persons and the affected local communities lack essential social services, including healthcare, water and sanitation, food, and shelter. In addition to the high burdens of communicable and epidemic-prone disease, the situation is being complicated by the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, which is spreading rapidly. The conflict-affected people in Burkina Faso need urgent humanitarian assistance while urgent actions are required to address the underlying insecurity