The potential international health disaster posed by the emergence of the swine flu has got Africa intellectualising its capacity to handle an eventual pandemic. In a backdrop of standing orders from developed countries for vital drugs, developing countries like those in southern Africa may be out of luck when placing emergency orders for medicines in high demand with pharmaceutical companies. Here is how some southern African countries have responded so far…
Zimbabwean economist Innocent Makwiramiti said there was “zero preparedness” for an outbreak. The country is still recovering from one of the biggest ever cholera outbreaks, which claimed thousands of lives. “There is no money to stock hospitals with drugs and it would be a miracle for the government to mobilize funds needed to combat swine flu that, as it were, seems far away.”
Frank Mwenifumbo, Malawi’s deputy minister of agriculture and food security, said that medical teams, including veterinary officials, had been deployed at all entry points to ensure that the human strain of the virus associated with pigs did not spread into the country.
Zambia is placing a renewed emphasis on epidemiological surveillance throughout the country, while working with the WHO and other organizations to obtain drugs and set up the logistics to cope with a swine flu epidemic, according to local media reports.
There is concern whether Angola, which has a fragile health infrastructure and a poor track record of responding to recent outbreaks of cholera, rabies and polio, would be able to handle an outbreak. The government has announced that it was “taking measures”.
Botswana’s Ministry of Health has advised people who travelled to any of the affected countries or have had contact with any person affected by swine flu and developed a combination of symptoms to report to the nearest health facility.
Swaziland, which lacks capacity, will be assisted by the WHO country office to help monitor flu cases.