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COVID-19 spurs health innovations in Africa- WHO

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African youths have come up with innovations that address a host of health-related challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Friday.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said this in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Moeti said the continent was currently the new frontier for health innovations spurred by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is one of the most serious health challenges in a generation, but it is also an opportunity to drive forward innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurship in life-saving health technologies,” Moeti said.

A WHO analysis indicates that more than 120 health innovations have been piloted in Africa since the pandemic was reported in the continent early this year.

Africa accounts for 12.8 per cent of 1,000 new or modified technologies that have been developed globally to strengthen COVID-19 response in key areas like surveillance, contact tracing and treatment.

“It is great to see the youthful energy of the continent fired up to fight COVID-19,” Moeti said.

“Solar-powered automatic hand washing tools, mobile applications that build on Africa’s rapidly growing connectivity, these home-grown innovations are uniquely adapted to the African context.”

According to the WHO analysis, 57.8 per cent of health technologies and innovations in Africa were driven by information and communications technology (ICT), 25 per cent were based on 3D printing and 10.9 per cent were robotics.

The analysis cited ICT-based innovations such as WhatsApp chatbots in South Africa, self-diagnostic tools in Angola, contact tracing apps in Ghana and mobile health innovation tools in Nigeria.

South Africa had the highest number of health innovations linked to COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 13 per cent.

This is followed by Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda that accounted for 10 per cent, 8 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.

It is encouraging to witness a flood of health innovations in Africa during the pandemic era, Moeti said.

Moeti added that a robust policy and regulatory environment and financing are crucial to realising long-term benefits.

Fatima Sule

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