HEROES 10: John Nkengasong – uniting Africa to fight the virus

Soon after the WHO announced on 30 January that Covid-19 was a significant public health emergency, experts began to worry that African nations would suffer more from the virus than those in other continents.

The continent of 1.3 billion people has limited resources for disease prevention, and a history of suffering from major pandemics including HIV/Aids, cholera and Ebola.

However, whilst the virus has left a year-long path of death and destruction across the globe, its impact on Africa has been comparatively light.

Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has been celebrated globally for bringing Africa’s 54 countries into alliance, helping them respond more successfully to the pandemic than many of the world’s richer countries.

The experienced virologist encouraged nations across the continent to work together to impose early lockdowns and to build successful cross-national supply chains.

At a lecture held in September, Dr. Nkengasong quoted the words of Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah to his audience: “It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity.”

Despite the recent rise in Covid-19 cases across Africa, and particularly in South Africa, the entire continent continues to report lower infection rates than North America and Europe.

It is safe to say that Dr. Nkengasong is achieving his goal of defeating the virus through “African unity” and with resounding success.
In September he was honoured by the Gates Foundation with the 2020 Global Goalkeeper Award for “ensuring that the continent has the vaccines and medicines it needs to fight Covid-19.”