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Africans Are Very Concerned About COVID-19 and Their Health System’s Readiness

By Wayan Vota on March 19, 2020

corona virus african government response

Novel coronavirus is now a global pandemic with over 220,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 9,000 deaths worldwide. African country governments are taking this new epidemic seriously. They know firsthand from the HIV epidemic how fast an infectious disease can impact a generation.

For example, South Africa and Zimbabwe declared national health emergencies, both South Africa and Kenya implemented broad travel restrictions, and Senegal closed all schools and universities. There will be more emergencies, restrictions, and closures in the coming days.

Africans Are Very Concerned About COVID-19

GeoPoll deployed an SMS survey from March 10th-13th 2020 in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria with 1,350 people (450 per country) who were roughly nationally representative by location, gender, and age across each country.

GeoPoll wanted to examine awareness levels, primary information sources, knowledge of how to prevent the virus, and levels of worry. They found that 94% of the respondents were aware of the recent outbreak and continued to complete the remainder of the survey.

Despite relatively low numbers of cases in each country, concern over coronavirus is high. They found that 71% in Kenya, 69% in Nigeria, and 72% in South Africa rated their level of concern as ‘very high.’ GeoPoll also learned that 70% believe they are at risk of being exposed, with public places and public transport seen as the places with the greatest risk of exposure.

Africans Worry About Government Response

When GeoPoll asked respondents about their confidence in government’s COVID-19 response, the responses were quite varied. In Nigeria and South Africa, 25% were not confident in government, while 35% were confident. In Kenya, the general opinion is not as positive. 40% were not confident in government, while 30% were confident.

However, a majority (53-66%) of respondents in all countries felt that their governments were giving them clear communication on the COVID-19 disease and how to prevent its spread. For example, here are the key health ministry pages for COVID-19 in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria – each of them have prominent and clear coronavirus communications.

Africans Worry About Economic Challenges

The coronations response is creating a global slowdown as travel is curtailed and social distancing closes conferences and restaurants. These economic shocks have Africans worried too.

GeoPoll found that 79% of Kenyans are concerned by the financial impact of the virus, with 57% of respondents in Nigeria and South Africa believing they will be worse off financially as coronavirus spreads. Governments are already responding to this concern – Nigeria announced $137 million in credit relief for small businesses.

Still, 25% reported that many items in grocery stores are out of stock in all countries and 40% said some items are out of stock since the spread of coronavirus as people panic buy more food than needed in anticipation of quarantines.

What Do You Worry About?

The GeoPoll survey is clear on what Kenyans, Nigerians, and South Africans are generally worried about, but what are you worried about? Please share your concerns in the comments.

  • What is your level of concern?
  • Do you feel your government can respond to this outbreak?
  • Do you trust your government’s health information?
  • Will your health system be able to respond?
  • Are you worried about your personal health?
  • Will you suffer financial shocks?

For me personally, my family life is in shock since Friday when North Carolina closed all schools, and all our usual routines were upended. My wife is a frontline health worker at the main hospital in Chapel Hill, so we have many health concerns. Finally, I’ve stopped watching the US stock market as its precipitous decline stresses our entire financial system and my personal sanity.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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One Comment to “Africans Are Very Concerned About COVID-19 and Their Health System’s Readiness”

  1. Janice Cooper says:

    I am concerned about disaster/outbreak fatigue and about vicarious trauma. I live in a country hard hit by EVD whose health system was strengthened as a result but has gradually regressed to post-EVD levels in some places. COVID-19 poses several challenges: 1) bringing back that trauma which may impede people to act wisely and in keeping with infection prevention, control practices; 2) contribute to cyncism that these outbreaks are just money makers for governments; 3) concern that we are competing with the whole world for limited resources not just a few outbreak countries.