Our work in 2020

Facing up to an unprecedented challenge

A year ago, a little-known virus emerged, and in a matter of weeks the world would be jolted by an unprecedented pandemic. COVID-19 has upturned every aspect of life, and the struggle is still on to bring the virus under control. In the African region, WHO has worked with governments to tackle the pandemic which turned 2020 into an extremely challenging year. Even so, the region reached remarkable milestones: two Ebola outbreaks have been halted, Africa is free of wild polio and more is being done to safeguard health systems. We feature some of the key achievements of 2020.

End of year 2020

7 January

WHO urges more action to end world’s worst measles outbreak in DRC

WHO calls for more funding to strengthen the response to a measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo cases surpass 6000, making it the world’s largest.
31 January

WHO bolsters COVID-19 readiness in Africa

WHO scales up support to countries to swiftly detect, isolate and treat COVID-19 patients. Thirteen countries identified as priority due to trade and travel links with China.
3 February

WHO Regional Director for Africa gets second term

The WHO Executive Board formally appoints Dr Matshidiso Moeti for a second term as Regional Director for WHO African Region.
14 February

Four African countries license Ebola vaccine

Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana and Zambia license an Ebola vaccine, marking an important milestone in Ebola prevention and response.
18 February

Ethiopia passes landmark smoking excise bill

Ethiopia passes landmark anti-tobacco legislation that introduces a mixed-excise system on cigarettes, including a 30% tax rate on cigarette production and an additional tax on each pack of cigarettes sold.
25 February

First COVID-19 case in WHO African Region recorded in Algeria

Algeria confirms its first COVDI-19 cases, also becoming the first country to do so in WHO African Region.
6 March

WHO Regional Office for Africa, UNV Programme to boost gender parity

The WHO Regional Office for Africa and the UN Volunteers Programme partner launch the Africa Young Women Health Champions to recruit 100 early to middle career women professionals across the African region.
10 March

South African Development Community unites to tackle COVID-19

Ministers of Health from the South African Development Community agree to coordinate response efforts and share information for a harmonized COVID-19 response.
21 March

Borno closes Lassa fever outbreak, briefs Media on COVID-19

A Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state, the second in almost 50 years, ends. The virus infected 21 people and claimed two lives.
1 April

WHO hosts virtual hackathon for COVID-19

The WHO Regional Office for Africa hosts a hackathon with 100 innovators from across sub-Saharan Africa to pioneer creative local solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic and address gaps in the regional response.
7 April

COVID-19 cases top 10 000 in Africa

COVID-19 cases in Africa surpass 10 000, with more than 500 deaths. Infections continue to spread to more countries and to regions beyond capital cities.
14 April

UN solidarity flight delivers COVID-19 supplies

First UN solidarity flight delivers vital COVID-19 medical supplies to all African countries where supplies are desperately needed to contain the spread of the virus.
20 April

Regulatory agencies to expedite COVID-19 clinical trial reviews

National regulatory authorities and ethics committees from across Africa agree to combine expertise to expedite clinical trial reviews and approvals for new multinational preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic COVID-19 interventions.
24 April

Malaria vaccine pilot in Africa one year on

Around 275 000 children receive the first dose of malaria vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi a year after it was piloted in the three countries.
30 April

African countries start easing COVID-19 confinement measures

As several African countries begin easing lockdown measures, WHO urges caution and issues guidance to encourage a gradual adjustment of public health and social measures.
4 May

4 May: WHO supports scientifically proven traditional medicine

WHO encourages innovations for potential COVID-19 treatments using traditional medicines, while ensuring efficacy and safety are established through rigorous clinical trials.
21 May

WHO showcases African innovations in COVID-19 response

African innovators step up support to the continent’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic, collaborating with WHO to develop solutions to help contain the virus.
22 May

Africa COVID-19 cases top 100 000

COVID-19 spreads to all African countries, with more than 10 000 cases and 3100 deaths across the continent.
1 June

New Ebola outbreak in western DRC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo declares a new Ebola outbreak in the western Equateur province as another outbreak in the eastern region enters its final phase.
4 June

Polio eradication expertise backs Africa’s COVID-19 response

A network of responders from the WHO Polio Eradication Programme and partner organizations provide critical resources and skills to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, by supporting testing and contact tracing activities.
25 June

DRC’s 10th Ebola outbreak declared over

The Ebola outbreak in DRC’s eastern region, the country’s 10th and the second-deadliest in the world, is declared over 18 months since erupting.
9 July

WHO urges equitable COVID-19 vaccine access

WHO calls for equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines in Africa as researchers around the world race to find effective protection against the virus.
22 July

Joint push for COVID-19 traditional medicine research

WHO, Africa CDC launch an expert committee to provide independent scientific advice and support countries ensure safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicines.
23 July

COVID-19 infects over 10 000 health workers in Africa

More than 10 000 health workers in 40 countries infected with COVID-19, highlighting the challenges medical staff on the frontlines of the pandemic face.
27 July

Ethiopia vaccinates almost 15 million children against measles

Amid COVID-19 challenges, Ethiopian health authorities vaccinate nearly 15 million children against measles, in an effort to maintain essential health services during the pandemic.
5 August

WHO deploys surge team to South Africa

WHO deploys around 40 experts to South Africa to help bolster the country’s COVID-19 response.
6 August

Africa reaches 1 million COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 cases surpass 1 million cases in Africa as the pandemic surges in several hotspots across the continent.
25 August

Africa declared free of wild polio

In a historic milestone, Africa is officially declared free of wild polio, only the second time a virus has been eliminated in the continent since smallpox 40 years ago.
27 August

Togo becomes the first African country to end sleeping sickness

Togo becomes the first country in Africa to eliminate sleeping sickness as a public health problem after 10 years with no recorded cases.
2 September

1 million COVID-19 survivors are recorded on the African continent

WHO celebrates the story of one woman from Guinea, who beat the disease at age 99.
10 September

COVID-19 genome sequencing laboratory network launched

WHO, Africa CDC launch a network of laboratories to reinforce COVID-19 genome sequencing in Africa.
19 September

COVID-19 herbal medicine trial protocol endorsed

A WHO, Africa CDC expert panel endorse a protocol for phase III clinical trials of COVID-19 herbal medicine.
29 September

African island states launch joint medicines procurement initiative

Ministers of Health from seven small African island states sign an agreement to jointly procure drugs and vaccines in a bid to improve quality and access to medicines and other health products.
30 September

Statement from Dr Matshidiso Moeti on Sexual Abuse

Dr Matshidiso Moeti expresses support for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, and a thorough inquiry into allegations of abuse by aid workers during the DRC’s North Kivu Ebola response.
22 October

Rapid tests to boost COVID-19 diagnosis

The roll-out of new, antigen-based rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests to boost testing capacity in Africa.
29 October

Over 120 health innovations piloted in Africa

A new WHO analysis finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has galvanized the development of more than 120 health technology innovations in Africa.
18 November

DRC’s 11th Ebola outbreak declared over

The Ebola outbreak in the western Equateur region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is declared over, nearly six months after the first cases were reported.
23 November

Knowledge brokering platform launched to support health systems in the African region

WHO and partners launch and online platform to promote information sharing across countries to strengthen national and regional health systems.
25 November

African Health Ministers urge greater vigilance in COVID-19 fight

At the 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa, health ministers across the continent stressed the need for strong COVID-19 responses, with high-level political commitment, solidarity, information-sharing, and research on traditional medicines remedies.
1 December

Eswatini reaches major HIV milestone

Eswatini becomes the first country in Africa to achieve the United Nations HIV target: 95% of people living with HIV know their status, 95% of them are on antiretroviral treatment, and 95% of those on treatment have a suppressed viral load.
3 December

Africa Infodemic Response Alliance launched

WHO and partner organizations launch the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance to coordinate actions and pool resources in combating misinformation around COVID-19 and other health emergencies in Africa.