Dr. Pierre M’Pelé has worked in various African countries as a representative of the WHO, and is, among other things, an expert on epidemics in Africa. Since 2017, the Congolese physician has headed the Mercy Ships Africa Bureau . We asked him about the impact that Covid-19 has had on the African continent so far, as well as about the role of the African office within the Mercy Ships international organisation.
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the African continent so far?
The Covid-19 pandemic is progressing in Africa. As of today, 18th June 2020, there are more than 250,000 cases and more than 7,000 deaths.
All 54 countries of the continent are affected. Eleven countries have reported more than 5,000 cases each. South Africa and Egypt have more than 50,000 cases each; Nigeria and Ghana each have more than 10,000 cases.
The epidemic is accelerating. The pandemic threatens essential health services due to the morbidity and mortality directly attributable to Covid-19, but also and above all because it weakens already vulnerable health systems. The economic and social burden of this pandemic on society as a whole is already perceptible and will be considerable as a result of the lockdown strategies put in place to respond to the epidemic.
The impact of this pandemic could also have a destabilising effect on States and thwart the socio-economic gains of the last thirty years. The consequences are likely to be disastrous for Africa in the absence of effective treatment, an available vaccine and, above all, an adequate response based on scientific knowledge.
What is the role of the Africa Bureau in the overall operation of Mercy Ships?
The Africa Bureau is the regional Office of Mercy Ships in Africa. This African headquarters of Mercy Ships was established in 2016 in Cotonou, Republic of Benin. It is in charge of conducting negotiations, signing and monitoring Memoranda of Understanding with the nations we serve, and supporting the persons in charge at Mercy Ships International in the implementation of the Engagement Plans in the various countries we serve. In addition, it contributes to the creation of partnerships with the stakeholders, leaders and populations of those countries in which we are involved.
How has the Africa Bureau worked in recent months in response to the Covid-19 situation?
As soon as the Africa Mercy left the port of Dakar in Senegal at the end of March, Mercy Ships CEO Tom Stogner assigned the Africa Bureau to continue the dialogue with Mercy Ships’ partner countries in Africa.
It is within this framework that urgent action has been taken to support “our” countries in the response to Covid-19. The Africa Office organised Mercy Ships’ support through donations of infrared thermometers and personal protective equipment to protect health professionals against this pandemic.
As of 19th June 2020, more than 80,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (medical goggles, FFP2 masks, examination gloves, surgical gowns and shoe covers) have been made available to the following 7 countries: Benin, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Togo, Congo and Ghana.