Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19 at Home and in Africa

Last updated: July 7, 2020 04:59 PM EST

What is Amref doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Africa

Our Response Focuses On:

To stop the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, Amref is working closely with African Ministries of Health, the African Centres of Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to train frontline health workers with training on COVID-19, scale up testing, and expand community awareness on preventing the spread of the disease.

In Kenya, we are using LEAP, our innovative mobile phone training platform to train Community Health Workers (CHWs) across 31 counties on COVID-19 prevention. So far, we have trained over 53,000 CHWs. We are also expanding testing for COVID-19 in the country and prepping the Amref Central Laboratory to safely handle incoming specimens. We are also partnering with local businesses to reach communities with health education, awareness, and to distribute hand sanitizer and soap.

Across several African countries including Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Malawi, Zambia, Ethiopia and Senegal we are training health workers on COVID-19 preparedness and response and providing them with protective gear. We are also training Community Health Workers to educate communities and raise awareness about the virus, dispel any myths or misconceptions, and how to prevent the spread of the virus with handwashing and social distancing. We are using public radio and other forms of media, both digital and traditional, to widely distribute COVID-19 information.

Other activities include successfully advocating for more information on where communities can access safe Family Planning and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) services while the countries are in lockdown. We are also asking African governments to protect women and children who are victims of SGBV, and to prioritize hearing SGBV related court cases while in lockdown.

We are also advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities, people with chronic illnesses, refugees and other often-overlooked populations to be included in COVID-19 preparedness and response plans.

Amref has successfully stopped a number of deadly outbreaks including the recent Ebola and cholera outbreaks in our over 60 years of experience working on the ground in Africa. With our expertise and long-term partnerships with African governments and communities, we are well equipped to stop COVID-19. Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Global CEO of Amref, is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s COVID-19 response advisor, and is on the Advisory Board of the Africa CDC, and the Co-Chair of a World Bank and WHO Global Committee around Universal Health Coverage.

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Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses, many of which cause no or minor illnesses, such as the common cold. Some cause illness in people, and others cause illness only in animals. Usually these infections do not cross over from animals to people.

On rare occasions, coronaviruses that infect animals “change” and develop the ability to infect people. This has occurred with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) where the viruses were probably initially infections found in bats. The new (novel) coronavirus was probably also an infection of bats but is now able to infect people. The new (novel) coronavirus is officially called Coronavirus Disease-2019 or COVID-19 (because it was first detected in 2019).

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COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, linked to a live animal market. This virus is now able to infect humans and can spread from person to person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet)
  • Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and are inhaled into the lungs of a person nearby
  • Possibly through touching an infected person who has touched their own mouth and nose which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales

People are thought to be most contagious when they have symptoms and are sick. There is also evidence that spread might be possible when people are infected but are not yet showing symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads at this time.

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Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore Throat

The symptoms may appear from 2−14 days (incubation period) after contact with an infected person and may range from mild to severe.

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Testing for COVID-19 is very similar to testing for the flu. Doctors need to collect a specimen – or a sample from you that will be checked for the virus.

Health experts think the coronavirus replicates in the respiratory tract, causing respiratory illness so clinicians swab your throat, going through both your mouth and your nose. People with “wet” coughs may also be asked to cough up sputum, a mixture of saliva and mucus.

The specimen collected is then sent to a lab for inspection and results can be ready in as little as 24 hours.

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There are no specific drugs to treat COVID-19 infection. People who are sick should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

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14% percent of confirmed cases are severe, with serious pneumonia and shortness of breath. Another 5% of patients develop respiratory failure and critical illness. About 2.3% of confirmed cases have resulted in death.

Therefore, the vast majority of confirmed cases have mild infection, with cold-like symptoms and mild pneumonia. It is not known why some people suffer more from the virus than others, but those who have developed serious illness tend to be those with underlying disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension or cancer.

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There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The only way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Everyday preventive actions include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then properly dispose of the tissue.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If you can’t immediately wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid handshaking.
  • Practice “social distancing”: Avoid crowded areas or events and close contact with others and maintain a distance of at least 6 ft from other people.

These precautions apply to people travelling to other parts of their own country, or to other countries.

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Only wear a mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection (coughing or sneezing) or are looking after someone who may have COVID-19, to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Disposable face masks can only be used once.

Remove the mask from behind (do not touch the front of mask) and discard it immediately in a closed bin. Remember to wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.

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Stay home and call a health provider such as your primary care doctor. Follow the directions of your health provider which may include staying home or getting tested for COVID-19. Your health provider will direct you to where you can get tested. Continue to wash your hands frequently and to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

But if you have a medical emergency, including high fever and severe shortness of breath, call 911 but ONLY if you these symptoms are severe.

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Our Work on the Ground

Scaling Up Community Involvement to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Country: Senegal
Partner: The Nommontu Foundation

Misinformation and myths about COVID-19 have contributed to the rapid spread of the virus in Senegal. We are training CHWs to ensure that communities are informed and understand the risks they face with COVID-19, receive practical advice on how to protect themselves and their loved ones, and that communities understand, can access, and trust scientific knowledge. Training for CHWs will cover risks, preparation and prevention at the individual and collective level (including hygiene practices), community mobilization techniques, support for behavioral change, and management of communication, information and rumours about the disease.

Through this partnership, we aim to achieve the following:

  • 1,000 CHW are trained
  • 3,000,000 people are aware of the risks related to COVID-19 and know the preventive measures they can take
  • The targeted communities receive a package of protection equipment (hygiene kits, masks, hydroalcoholic
    solution, etc) for community use and for health facilities
  • Digital educational tools on the virus are available in French and in five local languages
  • 100 interactive programs on COVID-19 are broadcast by community radio and television stations
Preventing COVID-19 Transmission in Informal Settlements

Country: Kenya
Partner: Kenya Breweries Limited

Through this partnership, we are distributing over 400,000 100ml bottles of alcohol-based sanitizer in Mukuru and Kawangware, urban informal settlements in Nairobi. These two settlements have a total population of 702,000 and lack adequate water supplies to sustain proper handwashing. The use of these sanitizers is one of the most effective methods of maintaining hand hygiene – not only to stop the spread of COVID-19, but also diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Amref is working closely with CHWs, local leaders, youth and Ministry of Health officials to distribute the sanitizers as well as provide education on the risks associated with COVID-19 and how to prevent the spread of the virus.

Providing Essential Medical Equipment to Health Workers

Country: Kenya
Partner: The Rockefeller Foundation

Amref is providing medical equipment to Kenya’s Ministory of Health to strengthen the government’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. Through the partnership, we have been able to procure:

  • 100 hospital beds
  • 300 infrared thermometers
  • 10,000 masks
  • 10 ventilators
  • 5,000 PPE kits
  • 20 patient monitors
  • 10,000 face shields
We helped this market in Arua, Uganda implement safe social distancing and other practices that prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as regular temperature taking and the mandatory use of masks. This market usually provides up to 12,000 people with food in one week.
In Arua, Uganda we trained health workers to safely manage COVID-19 cases and provided them with protective equipment. We also donated sanitizer, soap and other essential items to health facilities in the area.

COVID-19 Report: Six Months Later

Awareness Information Pack


The World Health Organization (WHO), Africa CDC and partners are scaling up preparedness efforts for COVID-19 in the African region to implement the recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.

How Can I Help?

The best and most effective way to help is to donate online to our COVID-19 fund. We sincerely thank you for your support.

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