How we’re preparing Africa for COVID-19

  • Allyson Bear
  • Mar 23, 2020

Allyson Bear is Lutheran World Relief’s Vice President of Quality, Impact & Learning and is leading our global response to coronavirus.  

Right now, we’re all staying in our homes, doing our part to flatten the curve of the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. During this uncertain time, I recognize how difficult it can be to think beyond the immediate future, beyond our own four walls, beyond our own vulnerabilities.  

But we are a social species, and we need each other. As we practice social distancing to protect the neighbors in our own communities, let’s also remember that our global neighbors across Africa need all the support we can offer.   


Africa braces for a spike in coronavirus cases with limited supplies and equipment 

African governments are responding to COVID-19 just like every other nation — closing borders, stopping air travel, closing ports, promoting social distancing. But, due to low testing capacity and under-resourced health systems, Africa faces the same dilemma as the U.S. — too little, too late.  

Community transmission is already occurring in most African capital cities, and it will rapidly move to smaller towns as people start to leave the cities for the countryside as the economies shut down and movement restrictions are put into place. 

  We anticipate that African countries are going to be hit very hard by COVID-19. Health care workers all over Africa will be identifying and treating cases with no gloves, no masks, no training and no medical equipment. Intensive care units rarely exist outside of capital cities, and medical specialists to run them are even rarer.  

There will be no specialty care available for the majority of Africans. 

Normally the international community would parachute in with hospital tents, medical workers and planes full of supplies. That is unlikely to happen this time — at least not on a magnitude of what will be needed. Africa’s underdeveloped health systems are going to be largely on their own, left to face the incredible burden of coronavirus on top of already unmet demands for skilled deliveries and care for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, noncommunicable diseases and more.   

Tonight, over most of Africa, no planes are flying. Commercial flights have been halted at the request of African governments. At the moment when we need to move people and supplies towards African capitals, there is no way in, and there are no supplies for them. In many parts of Africa and elsewhere, this pandemic will move through communities without any access to modern medicine. The human toll is going to be high.  


Our response to COVID-19 in Africa

This is not a time to panic but to take swift action. IMA World Health and Lutheran World Relief have deep experience mobilizing effective responses to emergencies, including the recent Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But we need your generosity to bring critical support to Africa. To health care workers on the frontlines, and to vulnerable families.   

In partnership with Christian health associations across Africa and trusted local partners, we are doing everything in our power to reduce the impact of COVID-19. 

With your donation right now, you’ll: 

  • Rush equipment and supplies to health facilities to keep patients and hero health workers safe.

  • Equip churches, schools and community leaders to educate families about coronavirus prevention, symptoms and treatment. 

  • Support local tracing of those who have come in contact with the disease to track and contains its spread.

  • Provide our partners on the ground with up-to-date guidelines and best practices for COVID-19 response.

  • Support data collection so that governments and public health experts can more accurately track and respond to the outbreak.  

Additionally, everywhere we work, Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health are taking measures to protect our staff, partners and the communities we serve during this pandemic. We are in this together, and my hope is that, during this time of widespread social distancing, the world will understand just how much we really need each other.  


Allyson Bear, Mar 23, 2020 email