The coronavirus pandemic discovered in Wuhan last December has been termed ‘China disease’ the same way Ebola has been christened the ‘African disease’.
The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has exposed the vulnerability of health systems in both developed and developing countries, forcing global financing institutions to announce stimulus packages to cushion poor economies.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved debt relief for 25 countries to aid national Covid-19 responses and economic recovery.
The World Bank has also unveiled $160 billion to strengthen overwhelmed health systems and economies.
Health systems in Africa are too financially constrained to address emergencies the size of the Covid-19 outbreak and health workers are prone to be infected due to lack of personal protective equipment.
All 54 African countries have confirmed about 5 678 deaths from nearly 209 438 cases, according to Africa Union’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC)
Covid-19 precautions include social distancing, regularly washing hands with soap, wearing masks and avoiding crowds.
However, vulnerable and poor Africans lack essential services, including water, cooking energy and electricity.
Some stay in slums where overcrowding, poor housing, hand-to-mouth jobs and lack of essential services make social distancing unworkable.
The outbreak has disrupted their sources of livelihood, including small and medium enterprises.
With struggling economies and fragile health crisis, Africans living on less than $1.90 a day require well designed humanitarian interventions and shock-responsive social protection.
So far, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa have imposed national lockdowns to reduce the coronavirus spread, but most people who lost their income require humanitarian aid.
Rights defenders in Malawi vetoed an impending lockdown, asking the government to clarify how it intends to cushion the well-being of the poor.
Covid-19 will affect African countries both with lockdowns and without because of the disruption in trade and foreign investment.
The World Bank and IMF have given Malawi Government $128 million to strengthen the Covid-19 response, which includes a K38 billion emergency social cash transfer programme targeting 172 000 households in peri-urban settings.
Malawi already has social cash transfers benefiting 10 percent of ultra-poor and labour-constrained citizens.
However, the coronavirus emergency has revolutionised social protection in Africa.
Hopefully, the government will expand the emergency social cash transfer to informal workers and rural groups prone to the pandemic.
The national Covid-19 task force should brainstorm social protection interventions’ coverage as the emergency has affected everyone.
The proposed intervention need to include different social protection levels, also targeting issues that require more time and administrative costs.
A universal basic income would be ideal during this time of Covid-19 crisis.
The government needs a strong information system of beneficiaries to enhance coordination and cooperation in social protection programmes.
The database should be sharable with all stakeholders to help them come up with sound indicators in monitoring, evaluation and learning systems.
The payment system is paramount as social cash transfers, especially during emergencies, require greater innovations, including mobile money solutions.
Telecommunication companies need to support the social cash transfers to ensure beneficiaries receive payments anytime they need the money.
The humanitarian crisis caused by Covid-19 requires a holistic approach to address underlying problems.
The focus should be on enhancing healthcare and social protection systems.
There is a need to revisit the national budget and relocate funds to social protection.
This should focus on long-term programmes that address the current crisis with the support of good policies aligned with national plans and global goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty by 2030.
Public finance management is a must for social accountability during emergencies, so all information about financing for the national response should be transparent and accurate to garner public trust.
All Covid-19 interventions should include facts about the virus and preventive measures.
Effective approaches should promote network governance because the Covid-19 crisis affects all sectors.