The UN health agency says West Africa faces a complex challenge of multiple outbreaks that could affect health systems.
The World Health Organization has warned that, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Africa is facing new outbreaks of the viral hemorrhagic fevers of Marburg and Ebola, putting enormous strains on ill-equipped health systems at risk.
The new outbreaks show the multitude of challenges that governments are grappling with in parallel with the pandemic, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said at a news conference Thursday.
“We are particularly concerned about West Africa,” Moeti said. “Fighting multiple outbreaks is a complex challenge.”
Côte d’Ivoire began vaccinating health workers against Ebola in the commercial capital Abidjan on Monday after a case of the deadly virus was confirmed over the weekend.
The country declared its first Ebola case since 1994 on Saturday. Authorities said it was an isolated case of an 18-year-old girl who traveled from neighboring Guinea.
Last week, Guinean health authorities confirmed a death in Marburg, similar to Ebola.
Africa faces more infectious disease outbreaks each year than any other region, Moeti said.
Health systems in West Africa in particular are weaker than in other parts of the continent, he added, although the WHO did not provide specific figures on staffing levels or hospital bed occupancy rates across the region.
Meanwhile, WHO data shows that West Africa last month recorded the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and cases are increasing in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria, all three recently affected by other sprouts.
Separately, Côte d’Ivoire has identified an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu near the commercial capital Abidjan and has taken steps to curb its spread, the government said on Thursday.
“Facing three outbreaks at the same time, for any health system, is a very difficult situation,” said Mamadou Samba, general director of health for Côte d’Ivoire, at the same press conference.
Samba did not respond directly to a question about how many of the many dozens of people riding a bus with the girl who traveled to Ivory Coast from neighboring Guinea had been identified.