By Varaidzo Zhakata
SIX nations in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc are set to benefit from the US$ 8.9 million African Development Bank grant that will be channelled towards COVID- 19 related control measures.
The funds will be channelled towards the procurement of laboratory and medical supplies, including testing kits, personal protective gear and non-invasive ventilators in Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The fund will buttress SADC’s capacity to coordinate pandemic response measures, including surveillance and sensitization, in the six beneficiary countries.
Separately, the continental bank’s Board approved $683,000 in grants to two-island nations namely São Tomé & Príncipe, to prop up response to the pandemic and its impacts. The grant funding comes under the Bank’s COVID- 19 Response Facility.
The SADC countries and São Tomé & Príncipe have inadequate resources and capacity to effectively manage the Covid- 19 pandemic, which has put a strain on already fragile health systems in the countries.
“As a result, these countries are now struggling to respond effectively to the fast-evolving situation posed by the Covid- 19 pandemic,” the Bank noted.
Although the spread of Covid- 19 has been slow in Africa, it continues to steadily spread through the continent, leaving in its wake disruptions and hardship caused by economic lockdowns.
The pandemic is projected to have a substantial economic impact on SADC member countries. For instance, real gross domestic product in all member countries, except Zimbabwe, is forecast to contract in 2020.
The approved project aligns with two of the Bank’s High Five priority areas: improving the quality of life for the people of Africa and integrating Africa, as well as the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Mechanism to fight disasters and pandemics.
The 16-member bloc (SADC) region has recorded around 120,000 Covid- 19 cases out of a continent-wide total of 325,000 cases, as of 24 June 2020. Reported cases in São Tomé and Príncipe stood at about 700, in a population of around 211,000 people.
The SADC Secretariat is the recipient and implementing agency of the grant.
By Varaidzo Zhakata