The image of Africa as a continent of plagues, viruses and deadly parasites persists. In this regard, most African countries have made great progress in recent years.
G uinea has beaten Ebola. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the West African country free of the disease after 42 days without a new case. A "milestone," according to WHO. In the past two years, 2,500 people have died from the disease in Guinea, leaving thousands of orphans and a devastated country behind. And yet the news of the victory against Ebola in Germany barely made it into the media.
"There are historical reasons for the negative perception of Africa," says Helen Rowland, spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. But gradually the negative image of the black continent is improving. "Africa's governments increasingly view investment in their healthcare systems as a prerequisite for population productivity. They are spending more resources and looking locally for solutions to manage disease."Africa has long since ceased to be the notorious continent of epidemics and deadly parasites.
Effective Ebola vaccine developed
It's a breakthrough in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus. Researchers have developed the VSV-Zebov vaccine, which has provided 100% protection against the disease in tests.
Rowland sees success against Ebola as 'good example of Africa's transformation'. He says the continent is making "great strides" primarily through the development of new vaccines – despite social, political and financial constraints. Nigeria in particular stands for this. Just three years ago, half of the world's polio patients were living there.
Polio is defeated in Nigeria
The world community expected the West African country to be the last to defeat the virus and the paralysis it causes. In 2015, however, the government in Abuja announced that polio had been defeated. 200.000 volunteers had immunized 45 million children under five nationwide in a vaccination campaign. Authorities had set up emergency polio clinics throughout Nigeria. Now only Pakistan and Afghanistan remain, where the poliovirus is still widespread.
A similar success story can be told by the inhabitants of the lower Sahel – until recently known as the "meningitis belt. The virus spread across 26 countries, causing the deaths of thousands of children each year from meningitis. "In Togo, they closed roads to prevent the spread," recalls Greg Widmyer, immunization campaign coordinator for the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation.
The organization contributed 70 million US dollars for mass immunization. In record time, an Indian company developed the vaccine MenAfriVac, which at 50 cents per dose costs a fraction of the market price. Today, the "meningitis belt" has disappeared. In 1996, 250.000 cases reported, the number shrank in 2013 to just four.
Africa is also likely to win the fight against malaria, says Sarah Barber, WHO spokesperson in South Africa. Today, more people would have access to mosquito nets. Sprays than it did 15 years ago. As a result, the malaria rate has risen by 37 percent. The number of deaths dropped by 60 percent.
New vaccine "Mosquirix" aims to fight malaria
A malaria vaccine has been in development for decades. Now the breakthrough has been achieved. "Mosquirix" has passed drug testing. 16.000 children in Africa have already been treated.
The biggest success was in South Africa, which reduced the death rate among malaria patients by 85 percent. "Funding and political will have increased," Barber said. However, she warns against resting on one's laurels. "We need prevention. Advance treatment. We must learn from progress and recognize emerging challenges."In fact, malaria mosquitoes that developed resistance to insecticides have been reported from at least 49 countries in recent years.
Problem case tropical diseases
Africa's health officials are still a long way from some goals, especially in the fight against AIDS. But the biggest challenge for Africa's governments are so-called neglected tropical diseases. The best known of these 17 diseases are leprosy and sleeping sickness. They received alongside programs against HIV. Malaria recently received little attention.
But there is hope: the fight against neglected diseases has been enshrined for the first time in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. They are expected to be conquered by 2030.
Cured, but fe.
Not all victims die from the Ebola virus. But survivors have a hard time. They are often feared, because how long the virus is contagious, many in their environment do not know.