In the West and Central African region, there have been 26,309 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 562 deaths to date (WHO, 13 May) with a steady increase in cases throughout the region including confirmed cases of local transmission in many countries.
The number of confirmed cases however depends heavily on the number of tests performed and testing capacity remains weak in many countries.
With a median age of just over 19, the population of the 23 West and Central African countries covered is among the youngest in the world. While youth has been shown to decrease substantially the severity of the disease, it is positively correlated to the number of asymptomatic cases which could make the disease harder to keep under control.
Furthermore, other illnesses such as tuberculosis, malaria, yellow fever, meningitis, HIV, and outbursts of cholera are endemic and the impact that COVID-19 could have on segments of the population weakened by these diseases is unclear.
Health & Borders
In coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), IOM is responsible for the health response at Points of Entry (POE) across West and Central Africa. While most of the borders in the region remain closed to travelers,
IOM is supporting 10 countries in disease surveillance & screening by providing training and equipment to border agents.
Mobility tracking, contact tracing, and Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) are also crucial to allow countries to reopen borders safely and rapidly. IOM has recently updated 14 existing SOPs to detect and manage possible cases of COVID-19 that were previously used at POEs to control other diseases. In cooperation with UEMOA (West Africa Economic Monetary Union) and WHO, IOM developed a training manual on surveillance and response to border health risks in West Africa, currently in use for the current pandemic.
Furthermore, IOM is supporting the use of the WHO developed “Go Data” software, in an effort to promote contact tracing. IOM is helping select POEs in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau use the software by providing them with tablets to capture relevant health data required by national authorities. The “Go Data” software then connects directly with each country’s health system.