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African countries get grants for COVID-19 response

The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund on Tuesday approved nearly $8.9 million in grant funding to bolster COVID-19-related control measures in six Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.

Separately, the Board approved $683,000 in grants to São Tomé & Príncipe, to support the two-island nation’s response to the pandemic and its impacts. The grant funding comes under the Bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility. The funds will facilitate the procurement of laboratory and medical supplies, including testing kits, per COVID-19 response protective gear and non-invasive ventilators in Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, all SADC nations. The SADC Secretariat is the recipient and the implementing agency of the grant.

The financing will reinforce the SADC ’s capacity to coordinate pandemic response measures, including surveillance and sensitization in the six beneficiary countries. 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 continuous 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 the SADC member countries. For instance, real GDP in all the SADC 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-nation SADC region had 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.