Six Strategies that Combat COVID-19 in SenegalDue to the new escalating cases and the development of new strains of COVID-19 worldwide, reasons exist to worry about the impact of COVID-19 on developing African nations. Many are concerned that these countries do not have the same financial and health resources to fight the virus and protect their citizens as western industrialized nations do. However, Senegal, a small West African nation of 16.3 million inhabitants, might be an exception. Foreign Policy magazine released an analysis suggesting that Senegal ranks second of 36 countries in how well it has managed and resisted the pandemic. How does Senegal use its six essential strategies to effectively combat COVID-19? An examination of some of Senegal’s strategies and best practices can shed light on how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic from its onset to February 2021.

COVID-19 Testing

The first strategy in the fight against COVID-19 in Senegal is its high-priority testing for its citizens. Testing is easy to obtain and readily accessible. Thanks to the efficacy of the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, people can obtain their test results in as little as eight hours. The program operates 24-hours a day and the entire country has access to testing. For those with symptoms, the test is free. Clearly, this has helped stop several chains of transmission. Additionally, the Institut Pasteur is currently developing a home test-kit in collaboration with U.K. company, Mologic. Med-tech news confirmed on its website that the partnership already began trials in January 2021 in Dakar, and they intend to start trials in the U.S. and Indonesia as well.

The Development of New Tools

The second strategy is to develop tools for the future. Possessing locally manufactured and innovative testing has been a trademark of Senegal. A ­­­­­­home test to check for antibodies in previously infected individuals is close to delivery. Both the Institut Pasteur and Mologic are partnering to make sure the cost is minimal. Dr. Joel Fitchett, medical director for Mologic, stated, “What we’re trying to achieve here is to deliver high-performance, low-cost devices that do not profit [the UK] because if we profit here, we only prolong this pandemic.”

Laboratory Construction

Senegal is building state-of-the-art laboratories. The construction of a laboratory site, DiaTropix, at the Institut Pasteur began in 2019 for the diagnostics of Ebola and yellow fever. Since early 2020, it became equipped with COVID-19 testing, making the implementation and validation of COVID-19 testing swift in Senegal. Furthermore, by making “smaller manufacturing lines closer to demand,” Senegal’s health system has now established a sustainable system with the ability to address a number of epidemics more quickly.

Testing Accessibility for Travelers

The fourth strategy in the eradication of COVID-19 in Senegal is COVID-19 test affordability and rapidity for travelers coming in or out of Senegal. The Institut Pasteur makes it easy and affordable for travelers to obtain tests by offering testing seven days of the week including holidays. It can occur at the cost of $73 (West African CFA francs 40,000). As close as 48 hours before traveling, one can easily obtain a test and receive results within eight hours.

Professional Expertise

Senegal remains at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight in Africa and worldwide. Senegal’s Institut Pasteur was one of only two labs in Africa that had the equipment to test COVID-19 and has continued to lead the way for COVID-19 testing and prevention ever since. The Institut Pasteur’s director, Dr. Amadou Sall, and his team have trained staff from a dozen other African countries on how to test COVID-19. Dr. Amadou Sall’s years of experience, high level of competency and expertise account for a lot of Senegal’s success in preventing the spread of COVID-19. His research covers diagnostics, ecology and evolution of arboviruses and viral hemorrhagic fevers. With more than 100 papers and book chapters, and more than 150 scientific communications, Dr. Amadou Sall is a world leader and accredited expert in this fast-evolving pandemic.

Presidential Actions

The sixth strategy is the efficient and pro-active governmental action against COVID-19 in Senegal. President Macky Sall took action early against the first coronavirus wave with a curfew in March 2020. Due to the risk of becoming unpopular, the president imposed a new curfew in January 2021.

Moreover, President Sall recently thanked Senegalese artists for helping to communicate the importance of prevention measures. He stated, “I am grateful to artists…. and other stars who turned to song, or painted murals, making it crystal-clear what was required of our people to stay safe. Washing hands, wearing masks, keeping your distance are simple instructions, so why complicate them? Why mess around, confusing the message, delaying the action and losing momentum?”

These are some of the most noteworthy strategies and best practices that combat COVID-19 in Senegal. Nevertheless, Senegalese people also deserve substantial credit for following safety measures at the expense of their jobs and communal lifestyle.

Elhadj Oumar Tall
Photo: Flickr

senegal ceasefire
An April 30th ceasefire agreement between the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance and Senegal’s government may secure the peace necessary to alleviate poverty in the country’s southern Casamance region.

According to U.N. estimates, thirty-two years of armed rebellion in Casamance have resulted in more than 5,000 deaths, in addition to tens of thousands displaced citizens. During this time, the MFDC, which has an estimated 1,200 to 2,000 members, split into factions that varied in their degree of militancy. In the past, the militant MFDC hard-liners have confounded peace talks, including the Peace Pact of 2004.

However, President Macky Sall’s willingness to negotiate with the entirety of the MFDC has made the public optimistic that the most recent ceasefire will lead to an enduring peace.

According to the Atlantic Council, rebel leader Salif Salio agreed to the ceasefire and peace talks on two conditions. First, the government had to agree to drop charges against rebel leaders. Second, the government had to promise to “promote the economic development and political integration of the Casamance region.”

Senegal has an overall poverty rate of 48 percent, but 60 percent of families are poor in the Casamance region. The conflict has obstructed economic growth in the south, where the fertility of the fields evinces a high potential for agricultural development.

“Today, going to tend to our crops, we are overcome by the dread of these armed groups,” one farmer said in 2009. He warned, “If this continues, there is the risk that most of our fields will not be cultivated this year, and that would worsen our already difficult living conditions.”

President Sall, whose policies have been criticized for failing to lower the country’s nearly 10 percent unemployment rate, hopes peace in Casamance will help Senegal’s entire economy by increasing growth in an underperforming constituent region.

In addition to his bid for peace, Sall has assisted the region with his Casamance Development Pole Project, launched last March. This set of initiatives aims to improve food security in the region, particularly for women who must support a family. For example, the World Bank recently reported its financing of a CDPP project, meant to empower women in Casamance through oyster farming.

If the primary sector of Casamance’s economy is allowed to flourish under an aegis of peace, real gains can be made toward reducing poverty in the world’s 33rd poorest country.

Ryan Yanke

Sources: FARS News Agency, Atlantic Council, IRIN, Examiner, World Bank, Global Finance
Photo: Atlantic Council

President Obama kicked off his tour of three African countries with a visit to the coastal francophone nation of Senegal.  Although the visit to the small West African country was framed as a reward for regional leadership and democratic successes, Obama did face a few challenges on the first stop of his week-long African trip.

Six years and only one African visit after his initial election, the Obama-mania of the continent has cooled substantially.  And while Obama was greeted by crowds of proud Senegalese wearing ‘Welcome Home, Mr. President’ t-shirts, some critics expressed concerns over the government-sanctioned ‘sanitization’ of the usually chaotic capital of Dakar in preparation for Obama’s arrival.

Despite the polished front, poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity are still the reality for the majority of Senegalese living on the fringe, and many citizens are hopeful that Obama’s visit is a sign of increased partnership and aid to come.  In his speech, however, Obama focused primarily on questions regarding domestic issues, not regional economic development.

Also on the agenda was a visit by the President and First Lady to the House of Slaves on Gorée Island, a UNESCO site and infamous historical slave trade hub where thousands of enslaved Africans were held before being shipped across the Atlantic.  Obama called the sobering visit to the site ‘…a powerful moment,’ and spoke of the importance of taking action on human rights and issues of equality.

President Obama also spoke encouragingly of Africa’s global importance as a continent full of potential. ‘The reason I came to Africa is because Africa is rising,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘And it is in the United States’ interests — not simply in Africa’s interests — that the United States don’t miss the opportunity to deepen and broaden the partnerships and potential here.’

He continued, ‘This is going to be a continent that is on the move. It is young. It is vibrant and full of energy. And there’s a reason why a lot of other countries around the world are spending a lot of time here.’

The President’s trip to Africa also included visits to Tanzania and South Africa and marked an important effort at shaping policy on trade, security, and human rights in the region.

– David Wilson

Sources: New York Times, USA Today
Photo: Breitbart