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COVID-19 is not over

John Keane

As schools and pubs are cautiously starting to open and the lockdown is easing across parts of Europe, many organisations are now expressing concerns over the rapid spread of the virus across Africa.

With 600 million people living without access to electricity in their homes and an astonishing 3 out of every 4 health facilities across sub-Saharan Africa estimated to be without access to reliable electricity, vast populations are left vulnerable, without access to modern healthcare. Covid-19 is far from over. It is a real and present threat.

As we all battle to contain the virus across the globe, the truth is that it has been spreading across the African continent. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently stated that ‘we need to take what is happening in Africa very, very seriously’. With limited resources to carry out widespread testing and limited infrastructure to care for patients, these are worrying times.

A pharmacy at a rural health clinic in Zambia relies on solar lights.

In a bid to combat the spread in Malawi, the government has banned gatherings of groups of people. However, for populations living in poverty, lockdown is a luxury they can not afford. People who work in the informal sector, do not have the option of working from home to stay safe. Livelihood is the necessity where 80% of the population engages in subsistence farming and needs to trade produce to get through each day.

Meanwhile, charities which exist to combat poverty in all of its forms are struggling to survive, with recent reports revealing that up to 45% of UK small international charities may close within a year.

At SolarAid, while we have had to pause some activity, our amazing supporters have enabled us to support the distribution of solar lights and products in Malawi and Zambia. We have also been actively supporting rural health infrastructure, distributing over 4350 solar lights and systems to equip healthcare facilities, workers and isolation sites. We are now moving into phase two of our powering healthcare work, as we seek to increase access to a range of medical services available, which are reliant on electricity.

We do not know when this pandemic will end. But once it does, we need to remember that many others, less fortunate than ourselves, remain vulnerable. Children will be working hard to catch up on lost education. People will be continuing to work hard to survive. The need to invest in, support and electrify communities, schools and healthcare systems across the continent will remain.

Without urgent action, communities across sub-Saharan Africa, will remain trapped in poverty and those who contributed least to climate change, will continue to be hit the hardest.

The fight against poverty and the fight against climate change, must go on.

Back to normal is simply not good enough.

– John Keane, CEO, SolarAid