African countries urged to keep vigilance on COVID-19

Prof Jayne Byakika of WHO: She says that reduced public perception of risk and pandemic fatigue have led to drastically low use of public health and social measures.

By Stephen Misori I

The increased reluctance for vaccine uptake and the spread of misinformation on COVID-19 continue to Impede the implementation of crucial public health interventions, a high ranking WHO official has said.

Prof Jayne Byakika, the Regional Incident Manager for COVID-19, said at a media science café that over the last five weeks alone, 1.7 million new cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally, with over 10,000 deaths recorded during the same period.

Prof Byakika said that reduced public perception of risk and pandemic fatigue has led to drastically reduced use of public health and social measures, such as masks, washing of hands and social distancing.

“Even though the COVID -19 situation in Africa remains stable, there are at least 6,000 new cases reported. This in reality makes the virus a threat that could still take a long time to contain. It is however notable that the continent registered the lowest number of cases as recorded a year ago,” she said.

Prof Byakika, however, warned that the virus retains an ability to evolve into new variants with serious unpredictable characteristics. She urged authorities to enhance surveillance and reporting on hospitalisations, intensive care unit admissions and deaths to help understand the current impact on health situations and systems.

“The pandemic has exited the acute stage and transited to the protracted stage, and this is not an indication of lowering the guard. We must appreciate the interventions put in place by the World Health Organisation such as vaccination, which is one of the life-saving tools,” she said.

While responding to questions from journalists on vaccine uptake, Prof Byakika confirmed that globally, only 70 per cent have received at least one dose. She, however, decried the low vaccine uptake in Africa where only 36 per cent have at least taken one dose and a paltry 30 per cent having completed the

“We encourage people to take vaccination since we do not know what kind of variant could be next. It is serious that only four countries have hit the target. We acknowledge Mauritius, Liberia, Seychelles and Rwanda for their contribution in containing the spread of COVID-19. All other African countries must take charge of the situation by encouraging their citizens to go for vaccinations,” she said.

In January 2023, WHO, in a special report, took issue with the elderly and healthcare workers for their laxity in going for vaccination. The report showed that only 51 per cent and 47 per cent of the target elderly population and healthcare workers, respectively, had completed primary vaccination series in 23
out of 47 countries.

Prof Byakika urged the State Parties to observe the temporary recommendations issued by WHO director, encouraging them to maintain momentum for COVID-19 vaccination to achieve 100 per cent coverage of high priority groups.

“The WHO director has advised the improvement on reporting of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance data to WHO and the increase in uptake of medical countermeasures. In that case, State Parties should enhance access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. There is a need to maintain strong national response capacity and preparation for future events to avoid the occurrence of a panic-neglect cycle,” she said.

In its latest report, WHO committed to continue supporting research for improved vaccines that would reduce transmission, and continue to adjust any remaining international travel related measures based on risk assessment.

The science café was held amid media reports that Kenya could be experiencing a silent surge in the number of patients requiring oxygen as the country faces a new wave of COVID-19.

China, Prof Byakika said, is currently experiencing a new wave fuelled by XBB, which is expected to cause 65 million infections per week by June 2023. In Beijing, the number of new infections has quadrupled in four weeks.

XBB is also causing smaller waves in other parts of the world, including India, Singapore and the United States.XBB.1.16, the Arcturus variant, is a descendant of Omicron, with some reports suggesting it causes conjunctivitis or pink eye.

Speaking during the ninth Africa regional meeting of the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (Capsca) in Mombasa, experts from WHO and Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned African countries against relaxing COVID-19 protocols, saying the world is not out of the woods yet. 

They added that the COVID-19 protocols were essential to control and manage any medical emergencies.

The experts also urged African countries to deploy public health officers in all international airports to screen passengers. 

Dr Miriam Nanyunja, WHO Regional Advisor for Risk Management and Preparedness, said public health officers in airports would help screen passengers and manage public health emergencies. 

“It’s critical to have public health officers stationed at airports to work with facility officers,” said Dr Nyanyuja, a public health expert.

Caption: Dr Patrick Oyaro: Myths and misconceptions affect the uptake of vaccines hence need to report on how prevention and control measures benefitted other health aspects.

Study: Immunisation programs unaffected by COVID-19

Caption: Dr Patrick Oyaro: Myths and misconceptions affect the uptake of vaccines hence need to report on how prevention and control measures benefitted other health aspects.

By Asha Bekidusa I

MOMBASA, May 18, 2023 – Immunisation programs in Kenya’s Kilifi county did not suffer adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new research has revealed.

The study called Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vaccine coverage in Kilifi, Kenya: a retrospective cohort study found out that despite many countries experiencing disruptions in out-patient visits and routine immunisation services during the early days of COVID-19, immunisation of children within the Kilifi County was not affected by the pandemic.

It also revealed that immunisation visits for the third dose of the Pentavalent vaccine and Measles containing vaccine were maintained during the first year and increased during the second year of the pandemic.

According to Dr Ruth Lucinde, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, who led the study, issuance of guidelines for continuity of essential services and exemption of healthcare workers and individuals seeking care from movement restrictions may have contributed to this scenario.

Additionally, supplying counties with extra vaccines and immunisation supplies and postponing routine weighing services for children but advising mothers to return for all their vaccination visits also contributed towards this positive report.

While making a presentation, COVID-19 Vaccination Integration into Routine Immunisation noted that currently there is still uptake as health workers implement door to door vaccination. He also said that partners have formed the County Technical Working Group which is multisector for planning and coordination; and to assess readiness.

“We know that COVID-19 is no longer an emergency, but this does not mean it is over,” he cautioned the journalists attending the 80th Science Media café by Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) yesterday.

Dr. Oyaro added that when COVID-19 measures were relaxed in the country there was a decline of uptake of vaccine in most counties including the Coastal region. Therefore, clear messaging and interpretation of public notice is important in managing responses to public health measures.

Naming myths and misconceptions as challenges affecting the uptake of vaccine, he advised journalists to report on the positives on how the infection prevention and control measures like wearing a mask and regular hand washing benefitted other health aspects like prevention/reduction of other respiratory and diarrheal diseases.

Anne Mweu from National Nurses Association of Kenya acknowledged the challenges that came with COVID-19 but noted that nurses are now better prepared to handle a pandemic than ever before as the shock and anxiety that at first accompanied the pandemic has been overcome by regular sensitization by the government.

Availability of resources such as personal protective equipment to protect the nurses and such resources were challenges however she noted that these are now available in the hospitals to offer protection to health workers countrywide.





A Nursing Mother from Thaba Phatšoa Ha Toboleloa ‘Mampho Raleting

Paying tribute to midwives around the world

A Nursing Mother from Thaba Phatšoa Ha Toboleloa ‘Mampho Raleting

Liapeng Raliengoane:

LESOTHO, Leribe – As the world commemorates the International Midwifery Day today, several interviews with midwives, village health workers and nursing mothers in the remotest areas of Leribe revealed that the midwives are instrumental in reducing maternal mortality and improving the overall health of mothers and new-borns in Lesotho.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), quality midwifery reduces maternal, new-born mortality and still birth rates by over 80% and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24%.

International Midwifery Day is celebrated on 5th May every year to raise awareness of the role of midwives and to meet the growing needs of more midwives around the world. This year’s theme is “Together again: from evidence to reality.”

The Maternal Death Review Report (2015), has shown that the highest number of maternal deaths occurred in Maseru at Queen ‘Mamohato Hospital where 102 women lost their lives as a result of complications of delivery or inadequate care during pregnancy. Additional figures came from Leribe and Berea with 25 and 19 lives lost respectively.

Currently working at St. Dennis Health Centre, Nurse Midwife Tlaleng Motaba indicated that she studied towards midwifery because she loved it since childhood. She started working as a midwife in 2019.

Midwife Motaba revealed that in the beginning she was scared of delivering babies but as time went on, she got used to it.

The most challenging incident she came across while assisting a mother to deliver was when one day she came across twins, the mother did not go for ultrasound scan beforehand.

“This situation scared both me and the delivering mother as she was not anticipating twins, but all went well, there were no complications both babies and their mother lived,” she said.

She also expressed a wish for midwives to be afforded an opportunity for refresher courses often. Her words of encouragement to other midwives is that they should love their job and also groom expecting and delivering mothers to do the right thing.

From Khabo Health Centre, Nurse Midwife Lahlewe Kao said growing up, she aspired to become a nurse and her dream came true. She started working at the facility in 2022 and has delivered about 15 to 20 babies and they were all alive.

Midwife Kao expressed that seeing both the mother and baby healthy post-delivery, is satisfactory to her and brings a lot of joy in her heart. That one challenge facing them is the shortage of staff.  

She said the most challenging instant in her life was when one midnight she was helping a mother to deliver and came across a complication thus had to refer her to the hospital but none of the emergency ambulances were available.

In the end she got help from a villager’s personal car and the mother was taken to the hospital and was delivered. She said this was the most frustrating event she went through as she was worried about both the mother and the baby when her efforts to get a car proved futile.

To her fellow colleagues this International Midwifery Day, midwife Kao encourages them to work tirelessly in seeing that both the delivering mothers and their babies are safe in their hands.

Although midwifery is a career perceived by society to be for women, Lesotho has beaten this odd, as there are male midwives.

A Nurse Midwife working at Matlameng Health Centre Thabo Makhakhe made known that he became a midwife because he had never seen a male midwife and he wanted to be a trailblazer in that field. He started working as a midwife in 2019 and has delivered many healthy babies.  His message to fellow colleagues today, is that they should always be positive.

Another Nurse Midwife from Matlameng Health Centre Teboho Makhebesela started working as a midwife in 2021. He said he became a midwife because he wanted to become “something big” in life as in his family there were no graduates at all he wanted to defeat the odds.

He explained that he has so far delivered about 20 babies. That he has realized that festive season, is the busiest season whereby many babies are delivered.

His words of encouragement to the fellow midwives is that midwifery is a closed book, that they should update their knowledge often, they should read a lot and also meet with other midwives to discuss the challenges they come across.

To other males who want to become midwives but succumb to societal beliefs, he encouraged them to pursue midwifery and never mind what people are saying. That they should be aware that every now and then, there is a baby born thus they will have job and a well-paying one for that matter.  

A Nursing Mother from Thaba Phatšoa Ha Toboleloa ‘Mampho Raleting related that she got good health services from when she was pregnant, while giving birth and post-delivery. She marvelled at the support the midwives provided and continue to provide in her journey of motherhood.

A Village Heath Worker from Ha Toboleloa ‘Makelello Pitsi expressed joy over the work and services provided by the midwives. She said their dedication goes beyond their scope of work.

“Sometimes when delivering mothers have no clothes, or no money to go to Motebang hospital when they are referred there, the midwives provide them from their own pockets. I have seen it happen many times, they are the real-life savers in every sense of the word,” Pitsi revealed.

These interviews were conducted during a field trip supported by the United Nations Population Fund Lesotho (UNFPA) for journalists to conduct interviews in hard to reach clinics so as to write informed stories that highlight the role of midwives in saving the lives of mothers and babies and focusing on the critical role of midwives in reducing maternal and child mortality in the country.   

 A statement by UNFPA highlights that the midwives and people with midwifery skills are the main caregivers for women and their new-borns during pregnancy, labour, childbirth and in the post-delivery period, therefore, UNFPA stands in solidarity with midwives worldwide and expresses gratitude to them for the life-saving work they do. UNFPA’s theme for this day is “Actioning Evidence: Leading the Way to Enhance Quality Midwifery Care Globally.”

In over 125 countries, UNFPA advances midwifery by strengthening quality education, regulations and workforce policies, and building strong national associations of midwives.

In Lesotho, UNFPA supports the government through the Ministry of Health in advancing the midwifery curriculum and strengthening midwifery services as a strategy of reducing maternal deaths. It also supports training of midwives, emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

Temperature check at a roadblock for COVID19.

How efforts to counter resistance to Covid jabs have worked

Temperature check at a roadblock for COVID19.

By Omboki Monayo |

Aparticipation in the Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) science symposium lands me in central Malawi’s Salima District.

The date is November 14, 2020. At the Khombedza Health Centre, Miriam Khatumba arrives for a Covid-19 jab. She is quick to reaffirm that she won’t listen to claims that the prevention measure is satanic.

Such claims spread like wildfire the moment Malawi’s Health ministry introduced COVID vaccines in 2021.

Khatumba, 68, is here for the second dose. The first was in April at this same facility that has existed since 1970s.

“I came here for my first shot after authorities asked us to get vaccinated. I ignored the rampant fear-mongering,” she tells Sayansi.

Khomebdza Health Centre serves at least 85,955 people in Salima.

According to Cosmas Phiri, the facility’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Coordinator, 6,838 (15 per cent) of Khombedza residents are fully vaccinated. Some came from as far as Chimphanga and Makanjira, 14km and 18km away respectively, incurring up to 6,000 Kwacha ($5.8) on transport alone in a country where the Ministry of Labor, Youth and Manpower Development data estimates the December 2022 average monthly wage at $48.77.

Khatumba, accompanied by her husband, says: “I want to protect myself and my family from severe COVID-19 infection and possible death.”

Lucia Frankie, a traditional leader, also got vaccinated, with her first dose coming in January 2022. “It was for my sake and my family’s,” she says at the health centre that started as a dispensary in 1970s before it was upgraded in the 80s.

On the way to becoming a fully-fledged health centre, the facility has been expanded through construction of a theatre, male and female wards and a maternity wing. And now the construction of office blocks and additional housing for nurses and clinical officers is underway.

Thanks to the government and development partners’ investments infrastructure and medical personnel, Khombedza Health Centre is now an established community bulwark against the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

“We treat TB, COVID-19, malaria and other infectious diseases. In addition, we carry out deliveries as well as maternal and child health services. At least 130 deliveries are done here every month,” says Mr Phiri, adding: “We have adult and child vaccination, as well as disease surveillance in the region.”

Although infection rates have reduced globally, COVID-19 still exists, with World Health Organisation (WHO) data showing Malawi as cumulatively recording 88,123 cases and 2,685 deaths by December 16, 2022.

“We started the COVID-19 vaccination in 2021, with Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer doses,” says Phiri, adding: “Almost 4,000 people have since been vaccinated at the facility. Roughly half of them are fully vaccinated, with Chisamba area having the highest coverage rate of 41 per cent.”

This despite the misinformation that seemed to be a hurdle in the drive to fully vaccinate locals.

Ministry of Health statistics shows only 31 per cent of Malawians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. “We have recorded a low rate partly due to vaccine hesitancy and the global reduction in infections. We are still engaging the public to get more people vaccinated,” says Maureen Luba of the Health Ministry.

The interactive symposium that included representation from the Malawi Ministry of Health, medical experts, science journalists from Malawi, Kenya (by three members of Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA)), Zimbabwe, Uganda and Tanzania, unearths a lot of hesitancy stories.

For Rashid Manganda, a Health Surveillance Assistant (HAS) based in Palombe District on the Malawi-Mozambique border, vaccine hesitancy is a major challenge. Villagers once forced the community health worker to take the HPV vaccine meant to protect girls aged 10 to 14 against development of cervical cancer in their sexually active adult years.

Rashid agreed to take the jab, which is primarily meant for young girls and boys.

“I knew that the vaccine would cause me no harm, even though it was meant for female recipients for the purpose of preventing the development of cervical cancer during their sexually active phase of life,” he said.

The move by the HSAs bore fruit. “After we took the jab, the villagers allowed us to proceed with the rest of the exercise. It is important for us to engage the community if we are to make headway against COVID-19 and other diseases,” he says.

“Many people, including clerics, claimed the jab was a satanic method to control the black population. There were rumours that the vaccinated part of the body would be magnetic,” says Phiri.

Researchers Qun Ao, Robert Egolet, Hui Yin and Fuqian Cui carried out a cross-sectional study in the country, covering 758 participants in 2021.

“Of these, 189 or 24.9 per cent were vaccinated. A further 271 or 35.8 percent were willing to be vaccinated but had not yet received the vaccine, and 298 (39.3 per cent) refused to be vaccinated,” reads the report published in the May 2022 edition of the Swiss MDPI journal.

Vaccine hesitancy is defined by WHO as “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services”.

WHO has highlighted hesitancy as one of the 10 threats to global health.

The Health ministry has countered the misinformation, with the help of faith and opinion leaders in awareness campaigns.

The effort, says Phiri, has paid off. “We have recorded significant success in our faith-based vaccination campaigns. For instance Jehovah’s Witness faithful were the first to be vaccinated following directions from their international leadership,” he says.

The country plans to vaccinate 10.97 million people or 60 percent of the population as soon as possible, and Mr Phiri says the vaccine is still available in the facility.

Ms Luba says the ministry intensified the campaign at the grassroots by incorporating Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs). “We brought community leaders and other stakeholders to the table to decide which policies to be implemented. Among them was the involvement of HSAs in the vaccination drive,” she said.

In Khombedza region, some 41 HSAs serve communities under Mr Phiri’s guidance and supervision. Khatumba and Frankie have both benefited from the awareness creation by the HSAs.

Clinical Officer Boniface Chisamba says the HSAs also targeted HIV positive, those with hypertension and diabetes. “People with diabetes, high blood pressure and HIV are at high risk of infection with COVID-19, so we encourage them to be vaccinated.

 We did this for the people living with HIV by combining counselling and antiretroviral services with COVID-19 awareness,” says Mr Chisamba.

Among the cases he handled at the facility was a pregnant woman admitted in May 2021. “We managed her health till the infection cleared. She delivered a baby girl free of COVID-19,” he said.

The medic admits the facility lacks test kits, which are however available at the larger Salima District Hospital. “We refer suspected cases to Salima Hospital and once they are confirmed we manage them until the infection clears,” he says.

At the end of the symposium, Ms Kay Marshall of AVAC urged media to help debunk the myths and misconceptions around vaccination.

“Media should intensify efforts to dispel the rumours around the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. This includes misinformation being peddled by social media sites that lack scientific credibility,” she said, adding that the problem was not unique to Africa.

“Vaccine hesitancy is an issue in the wealthier countries of the Global North, including the USA, due to the political and religious beliefs of many who opted not to get vaccinated,” she told Sayansi.

“Accurate, timely and easily accessible knowledge will help the public to understand the importance of vaccines and the need to take them in large numbers to rapidly achieve herd immunity,” she said.

Ms Beatrice Anyiko has been a mentor mother since 2017. 
She sensitises communities on HIV.

Urgent action needed to prevent premature deaths from HIV/AIDS

Ms Beatrice Anyiko has been a mentor mother since 2017. She sensitises communities on HIV.

By Joyce Chimbi |

Wangari Njau remembers well the 1980s and 90s when HIV spelled doom, stigma reigned supreme and those infected with the virus were ostracised from the community, abandoned and left alone to die.

Her sister, Catherine Wairimu, was diagnosed with HIV in 1994. Wairimu and a group of friends left their village at the foot of the Aberdare Ranges in Nyeri County and travelled to Mombasa in search of greener pastures.

“There were no mobile phones and she lost touch with the family. When she came back two years later, we could not recognise her. She had to introduce herself. She was very thin, very dark and could barely walk. We learnt that she had mukingo (the long-necked disease),” Njau recalls.

She says people infected with the virus lost a lot of weight and their necks became elongated. Faced with a mysterious disease that killed people within no time, communities struggled with terminologies and used descriptive words in line with physical symptoms of HIV/AIDS to define the disease.

“We were afraid of her. We had a room in the compound that we used as a store. That became her home until the day she died a few months later. We were extremely afraid of her. It is the first time we had come face to face with the disease,” says Njau.

While the landscape is today significantly different and stigma levels have significantly decreased, it is still not yet dawn for people living with HIV.

Data released by Kenya’s National Syndemic Diseases Control under the Ministry of Health to mark the Worlds AIDS Day on December 1, 2022, painted a most worrisome picture: AIDS-related deaths increased in 2021 for the first time in a decade.

The data shows a steady progression in reducing AIDS-related deaths from 2013 to 2020. In 2013, there was a 30.1 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths followed by a 5.4 per cent reduction in 2015.

There was a significant leap to 19.4 per cent and 25.6 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths in 2017 and 2019, respectively, followed by a 7.2 per cent drop in 2020. In 2021, there is a significant increase in AIDS-related deaths by14.9 per cent.

Overall, 8,291 men aged 30 and above died of AIDS-related illnesses compared to 6,923 women in the same age group.

Nelson Otwoma, National Coordinator at the Network of People Living with HIV in Kenya (NEPHAK), says, “Most of the AIDS-related deaths in 2021 occurred among men who, compared to women, are less likely to be diagnosed. They are also less likely to start and stay on treatment and reach an undetectable viral load. We call on communities to support men’s access to testing and retention care.”

Early diagnosis and immediate entry into HIV treatment and care is critical to ending the AIDS pandemic by 2030. UNAIDS has outlined ambitious new targets to prevent an estimated 28 million new HIV infections globally and 21 million AIDS-related deaths.

To do so, research by UNAIDS shows there is an urgent need to provide additional investment and focused efforts to remove barriers to HIV diagnosis, treatment and retention in HIV care.

Speaking during the commemoration of Worlds AIDS Day in Bungoma County, Health Cabinet Secretary Nakhumicha Wafula, said, “In more than three decades, our collective efforts have restored dignity and hope to people living with HIV and affected families. We also know that along this journey, we have lost more than 2 million Kenyans; men, women, and children to AIDS-related deaths.”

Wafula said investments in the HIV response had yielded impressive results, adding that people are more knowledgeable about the disease, with many of them adopting protective behaviour and practices. There is now increased use of scientific technologies and tools and empowered communities to access HIV services.

“The initial sense of powerlessness that acquiring HIV would undoubtedly lead to untimely death experienced 38 years ago has been replaced by a movement of strong actors, including the communities of people living with HIV, represented here today,” she said.

Working together, Wafula added, “our HIV response yielded a 58 per cent decline in annual AIDS-related deaths from 52,964 in 2010 to 22,373 in 2021. This encouraging performance reflects a five-fold increase in the number of people living with HIV on life-saving antiretroviral treatment, from about 250,000 in 2010 to 1.12 million in 2021.”

It is these gains that are now at the risk of being rolled back, with HIV experts, activists and families infected or affected by HIV/AIDS calling for urgent responses to bring the fight against the pandemic on track to reach the goal to end the epidemic in the next eight years.

New data contained in the report are frightening: progress in prevention and treatment has been faltering, resources have been shrinking and inequalities have been on the rise.

Inequalities in service provision hinder fight against HIV

By Christine Ochogo I

New data contained in the report are frightening: progress in prevention and treatment has been faltering, resources have been shrinking and inequalities have been on the rise.

Inequalities in accessing HIV services remain a major setback in the fight against the epidemic, says a new report by UNAIDS.

In the report called In Danger: UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022, Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director, pointed out that the world will not defeat HIV if men continue to hold power and women are largely excluded from it.

‘This is what we call patriarchy while dealing with HIV,’ she explained.

Mrs Byanyima vouched for addressing the intersecting inequalities being faced by women, key populations and inequalities between children and adults.

Ms Adele Baleta, a media health trainer, while addressing a virtual cross border media café that brought journalists and experts from Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe together urged journalists to focus on these key populations to address the discriminatory issue they face in accessing essential HIV services.

“Why are sex workers unable to access PrEP and why is it that only 52% of children have access to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART)?” Adele asked the health journalists on December 9, 2022.

According to the UNAIDS report that was released during the 2022 World AIDS Day, key populations – sex workers and their clients, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, transgender people and their sexual partners accounted for 70% of new HIV infections globally in 2021.

Adele reminded journalists of the importance of increasing awareness on HIV to help decrease stigma that has affected mostly adolescents, key populations and young people living with HIV as they still face stigma when they seek sexual health services.

“Stigma has added depression and isolation among people living with HIV (PLWHIV) and this has negative impact on health outcomes,” added Adele.

Catherine Mwauyakufa, a health journalist from Zimbabwe appealed to journalists to continuously highlight success stories on HIV rather than focus on challenges. This, she said will encourage PLWHIV to adhere to HIV treatment and continue living positively.

Dr. Thierno is marching along CBD



Dr. Thierno is marching along CBD

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an alert on a possible surge of Covid-19 infections amid the festive season.

The alert comes following a recent report of an increase of Covid-19 cases in parts of Africa.

Speaking during a virtual media briefing, the WHO Incident Manager Africa Regional Office Dr Balde’ Thierno said that a number of countries have already reported an increasing number of cases although the rate of hospitalizations is still low.

“It is important to maintain a certain level of vigilance, because, usually all cases of the viral disease would surge amid the festive seasons, between the months of May to July and November through December to January,” said Dr Thierno.

Dr Thierno said that similar trends had been seen in 2020 characterized by end year surges of cases and deaths.

The main drivers of the surges as explained by the expert have been the emergence of other SARS-CoV-2 variants.

“The increasing cases of Covid 19 and other respiratory diseases in parts of the world should be a cause of concern, it is during this period last year that the Omicron variant was also reported although with less severe impacts,” said Dr Thierno.

According to the WHO data as of December 9,2022, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Botswana, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Angola have recorded a total of 143 deaths due to Covid-19 within the last two weeks accounting to 85 percent of fatalities.

South Africa leads at 122 deaths followed by Zimbabwe at six while Angola closes the list with only one death.

The data also revealed that Kenya is among the countries with a higher number of hospitalizations within the past two weeks.

As of December fourth, the number of hospitalizations in Kenya remained steady at 24 patients.

“The general hospital occupancy in the Intensive Care Unit in Mauritius had risen but remained low at 5.2 percent and 1.5 percent,” said Dr Thierno adding that in South Africa, the hospital admissions had fallen steadily for the past three weeks with a backlog of deaths reported.

In DRC and Madagascar, the number of patients in hospital were nine and two respectively while Burundi and Ethiopia did not report any new hospitalizations.

The global organization is now calling for increased sensitization and awareness on the vaccines to increase the uptake while the high risk persons should also be advised to wear masks.

Dr Thierno said that apart from building one’s immunity, the vaccine also plays an important role of limiting the circulation of the virus within the community and in turn protecting the vulnerable.

He said adding that “the more the virus circulates, the more the chances of the virus mutating with fears that it may escape the available vaccines,”.

Since the onset of the pandemic, 643,875,406 cases of Covid have been reported globally with 6,630,082 while Africa has recorded 9,415,892 cases of the infection.