News

01.07.20:

Replace Picton statue with memorial to child-victim Louisa Calderon - Black youth group

Louisa Calderon tortured on the orders of Sir Thomas Picton

(Credit: National Library of Wales)

An open letter to the Leader of Cardiff Council, organised by young people at Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel (SSAP) and signed by citizens of Cardiff is calling for the statue of Sir Thomas Picton to be replaced with a memorial to his most famous victim - Louisa Calderon.

Over 80 Cardiff citizens have co-signed an open letter - organised by SSAP Youth - to the Leader of Cardiff Council calling for the statue of Sir Thomas Picton to be replaced with a memorial to his most famous victim - 14-year-old Louisa Calderon.

Picton’s governorship of Trinidad was authoritarian and brutal and led to his trial in 1806 accused of ordering the judicial torture of Calderon. Calderon was a 14-year old mulatto girl, accused of being involved in the theft of money from a Port of Spain businessman, Pedro Ruiz,  whom Louisa’s mother had arranged for her to live with as a ‘mistress’ at age 11.

Unable to get a confession through interrogation, Picton issued the order to ‘Inflict the torture on Louisa Calderon’. Calderon did not confess and was imprisoned for a further 8 months before being released. Picton admitted ordering the torture and was found guilty by a jury in England. He was never sentenced, however, and in 1808, Picton was acquitted.

The letter says:

“While statues of slave traders continue to be taken down around the world, the question of what is to be done with the empty plinths left behind by these statues and how to address their history is undoubtedly posed. These are questions that should be answered by the communities in which these statues have long stood. Indeed, in the case of the statue of Picton, residents of Cardiff ought to have a say.”

Takura Aldridge, SSAP Youth said:

“We are seeking the help of leaders that aren’t afraid to confront the past in order to move forward. But as young “BAME” people, we aren’t afraid to do it alone. Though, it’d be better if the council and other institutions could join us.”

Fadhili Maghiya, Director of SSAP said:

"The #BlackLivesMattter movement in Wales has seen many young people rising up to denounce and address historical and racial injustices. SSAP Youth is no different. We need to ensure that the narrative is changed to reflect a more balanced telling of our histories.

“The story of Louisa Calderon and her abuser, Thomas Picton, is part of our Welsh history. Her story represents hundreds of thousands more. Their story needs to be told."

ENDS

Notes to editors

The full letter can be found here.

SSAP Youth:

Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel:

For interviews in Welsh or English, please contact:

Peter Frederick Gilbey, Communications Manager, Hub Cymru Africa
petergilbey@hybcymruafrica.org.uk



16.06.20:

WOAG statement on the merger of DFID and FCO

The news that the Department of International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are set to merge comes at a devastating time for the world’s poorest people.  

Now is the time for the UK to step up efforts to address the biggest challenges facing the world today; including climate change, poverty and gender inequality. COVID-19 has proved devastating for people across the world. For many of the world’s poorest, the problems that existed before the global pandemic seemed insurmountable, and now as many countries face the disease, huge inequalities are set to become even more entrenched.  

It is scarcely believable that at a time when decades of progress are threatened by COVID-19, the Prime Minister has decided to scrap DFID – a world leader in the fight against poverty. 

Now is the time to step up our ambition to work globally and DFID is the best instrument through which to do this.

2020 marked the beginning of the decade of delivery, where global action was taken to ensure no one was left behind. DFID is an exemplar for transparency and effectiveness, with an international reputation that would have been able to spearhead this work.

This merger could see the erosion of ‘Global Britain’. Diplomacy cannot replace aid. Middle income-countries like China or India must not be prioritised over lower-income countries such as Ethiopia or Somalia. Global issues will not be addressed if we only focus on the UK’s national interest.

We are not immune to the issues that affect the rest of the world’s communities, and we must ensure that we are poised and resourced for global action.  

Rachel Cable and Claire O’Shea 

(Co-Chairs Wales Overseas Agency Group)

5.05.20:

Redemption from COVID-19 lies in thinking and working globally - Welsh International Development Sector

As local communities across the country rally around each other in the face of COVID-19, the body representing the international development sector in Wales has called for a rallying of our global community too.

The Wales Overseas Agency Group (WOAG), a representative alliance of the international development sector in Wales is not immune to the challenges of COVID-19. The urgency of the domestic situation is obvious, but we have seen the best of humanity, as local communities rally around each other to support our vulnerable through this unprecedented time. We mustn’t forget also that we are part of a global community, in which we rely upon for vital support such as food and medicine, just as others rely on our help.

The challenges faced by the sector are similar to the challenges faced by other sectors. A much-decreased workforce, inability to recruit new staff and fundraising activities have all but ceased.

War-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen are already in a precarious position without the added pressure of a pandemic; their fragile health care systems are ill-equipped to deal with COVID-19.

The 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference, otherwise known as COP26, was due to be held this year in Glasgow, Scotland. This is now postponed until 2021, and with it, important and pressing decisions on dealing with the climate crisis have been postponed too.

Despite unprecedented challenging times, Wales has much to celebrate. The sector has been able to move lots of educational activity online ensuring Welsh students can continue their learning with excellent resources 1.

Webinars have been organised between organisations in the Global South and Wales to ensure shared learning and mutual support.

The sector’s international networks through churches, fair trade groups and hospitals, are all working to look after the immediate needs of the communities they operate in. The sector is doing this by building and supporting campaigns to write off the debt of developing countries that are being devastated by this pandemic.

Co-Chair of WOAG and head of Hub Cymru Africa, Claire O’Shea commented:

“The pandemic shows us just how vulnerable we all are to a virus that does not discriminate.

“While the effects here in Wales have been devastating, many people in the developing world are even more vulnerable. Most don’t have access to handwashing facilities, cramped living conditions mean social distancing isn’t an option, and the threats posed by hunger are more immediate than the risk of catching COVID-19, so their better option is to continue to work. We must act in solidarity with our global neighbours. This virus will remain a risk as long as we have countries with fragile health-care systems.”

Co-Chair of WOAG and head of Oxfam Cymru Rachel Cable commented:

“For decades, Oxfam has worked with partners in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“We’ve provided life-saving water and sanitation facilities to promote good hygiene practices like handwashing to help tackle diseases like cholera and typhoid, as well as Ebola.

“Never did I imagine that, here in Wales, washing our hands would become quite so vital. But handwashing alone isn’t enough. Oxfam is deeply concerned about how the poorest and most vulnerable people will be hit by COVID-19 - both at home and around the world.

“The economic fallout from the pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty unless urgent action is taken by world leaders. Wales must now step up and demonstrate its commitment to being a globally responsible nation.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1 The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) have published resources for primary school-aged and secondary school-aged pupils. Available at: https://cafod.org.uk/Education/Education-resources

1 Size of Wales have published outdoor activities, classroom activities, and more on their website. Available at: https://sizeofwales.org.uk/education/education-resources/

For interviews, please contact:

Peter Frederick Gilbey, Communications Manager, Hub Cymru Africa
petergilbey@hybcymruafrica.org.uk

15.04.20: Masks for all – advice on preventative measures for groups working in Africa during the COVID19 outbreak

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Lately, we have all had to think differently and desperately try to find to the best ways to deal with the rapidly developing pandemic, especially in relation to projects overseas and the safety and health of those connected with international development projects. One of the hot topics is whether homemade masks are any use. This is a summary, but evidence and guidance are changing daily.

Dr Kathrin Thomas, GP, Public Health Doctor and Chair of the Wales for Africa Health Links Network answers some of your most pressing questions about the issue of masks here.

How does the virus spread?

COVID19 is a virus that is spread through droplets from the respiratory tract of an infected person (and possibly aerosols during some medical procedures). Droplets are bigger and heavier and fall to the ground quickly, aerosols are smaller and can hang in the air and travel further for longer. Virus in the droplets can survive for up to 72 hours on some hard surfaces. People get infected by breathing in the virus in droplets or touching a person or a surface contaminated by virus in droplets and then touching their mouth or eyes. Those who are working and living in environments that do not easily allow social distancing of at least two metres between people from different households are therefore more at risk of infection. Most people who are producing infected droplets have symptoms, such as cough, fever or loss of smell/ taste. It’s not really understood yet how many people may be infectious before they get symptoms, or who never get symptoms (a couple of studies from China and Singapore suggest between 6.4% and 12.5% of those who test COVID19 positive).

The best ways to stop spread

The simple measures of isolating symptomatic people, frequent hand washing, cough hygiene and avoiding touching the mouth and eyes are by far the most effective ways of protecting people

If you have staff, volunteers or partners who are still working in environments that increase their risk of catching the virus, you may be thinking of recommending that they wear a mask in order to avoid contracting it. However, evidence on the effectiveness of surgical or simple homemade masks against COVID19 transmission, for asymptomatic members of the public is lacking.

Surgical masks

There is evidence that infectious people with other viruses who wear surgical masks would protect others. Guidance from the WHO and in most countries has been for those with symptoms and those caring for them to wear masks, but not healthy people.  The WHO reviewed this evidence on 6th April and did not change this advice. They emphasised that surgical masks should be reserved for care staff and symptomatic people. There is insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of cloth masks for the public. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation Executive Director of Health Emergencies, talked on April 3rd about the use of cloth masks for the public, but warns that the main driver of this disease is infected people coughing and contaminating surfaces and others. He said that cloth masks risked people not using the proven prevention measures, such as handwashing, but reluctantly conceded that they “may not be a bad idea in some contexts”.

Home-made masks

So what should you recommend for your organisation if the topic of using masks to continue work comes up? According to the evidence, there is a risk that masks could create a false sense of security that could end up putting people at greater risk. Even with the mouth and nose fully covered, the virus can still enter through the eyes. Homemade masks may encourage people to go out when they are symptomatic, in the false belief that they will not infect others. Add to that the fact that people may relax social distancing, handwashing and cough hygiene if they are wearing a mask. To make much difference to overall death rates, a very high proportion of the population would need to wear a mask, perhaps 80%. If there is a stigma to wearing a mask, the uptake could be too low to make much difference. 

However, the first comprehensive review of community face masks specific to the current COVID19 pandemic, published without peer review on April 12th comes out strongly in favour of cloth mask wearing, stating that the theoretical benefits outweigh the theoretical harms. They suggest that cloth mask wearing could reduce the Ro (number of people infected by each infected person) down, and hence reduce the cases over time (see diagram 1). This needs a high take up (over 80% of the population), so they suggest that mask wearing should be mandatory to achieve this and to avoid the stigma of only sick people wearing a mask. They believe that combining this with strong public messaging on maintaining all other preventive measures, will mean that risk compensation is unlikely to undo the positive beneļ¬ts at the population level.

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The review points out “To put this in perspective, 100 cases at the start of a month becomes 31,280 cases by the month’s end (R0 = 2.4) vs. only 584 cases (R0 = 1.35). Such a slowdown in case-load protects healthcare capacity and renders a local epidemic amenable to contact tracing interventions that can eliminate the spread entirely”.

So there is a growing public clamour across many countries for the universal wearing of simple homemade masks when out of the home. 'Masks for All laws' are now in place in Israel, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Mongolia and elsewhere, with more countries advocating this. The US Centre For Disease Control initially did not recommend masks for the public, but then endorsed cloth face masks in early April. There is a similar advocacy for home-made masks growing in Africa, with calls from some media in South Africa to encourage the use of masks by the public to protect themselves from contracting COVID19. Although it seems to be a plausible theory, it is currently not advocated by the WHO African Office, or Africa CDC. However, in situations where social distancing, handwashing and isolation are very difficult, it is likely to take off. It would be hard to discourage a livelihood to those who can make and sell masks.

Ideally, lots of people will do pragmatic research and find some answers that would help us all.

A reminder of the important messages for your organisation during the COVID19 outbreak:

  • Anyone with symptoms should isolate themselves until they recover and not go out, even with a mask.
  • If they need food or medicines, ask someone else to get these, and wear a mask when receiving them.
  • The best protection is physical distancing, handwashing, not touching the face and cough hygiene.
  • Masks do not protect the wearer; they may protect others only if properly used and in addition to all other measures.

Governments hence have a decision to make on whether to encourage mass mask wearing or even make mask wearing mandatory. In most sub Saharan African countries, cloth mask may be the only option. If your partner country opts for this, you could encourage cloth mask making and distribution.

How to make a homemade mask

Here are simple instructions on how to make a bandana mask in 1-minute video from Dr Jerome Adams, USA Surgeon General. And here are the CDC simple instructions on sewing or making cloth masks. The website Masks4All also has information and how to sew a cloth mask instruction. Masks must be removed carefully and washed after being taken off.

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COVID19 in sub-Saharan Africa: What does it mean for partnerships?

What does the global pandemic mean for partnerships between Wales and Africa? We are small but can still make a difference to the lives of many individuals even though we can expect to have very little impact at national, or international, level in the face of a such an overwhelming threat.

We are also in the business of long-term development and not humanitarian crises, so we should not abandon this principle. However, we have strong relationships of trust with partners who are facing a health, social and economic crises and we would all wish to do the best that we can using the capacity that we can mobilise.

For a good overview, try this short podcast from Trudie Lang, Professor of Global Health Research, University of Oxford, or brief interviews with WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti

How do you catch COVID19?

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted from symptomatic people to others who are in close contact through respiratory droplets, by direct contact with infected persons, or by contact with contaminated objects and surfaces. People are most infectious within the first 3 days from onset of symptoms. The incubation period for COVID-19, between exposure to the virus and symptom onset, is on average 5-6 days, up to 14 days. A small number of people may be contagious before they get symptoms, or without having symptoms at all (6.4% to 12.6% in a couple of small studiesi)

Predictions of death rates

Estimates are that, If no action is taken, the pandemic could result in 2.4 million deaths across sub Saharan Africa, while full suppression measures (for example, full social distancing and sheltering the elderly and vulnerable) could reduce this by half to 1.2 millionii. In Africa, a smaller proportion of the population is over 65, so most modelling suggests that the overall number of deaths could be lower than in similar sized Western countries. However, this is by no means certain.  Older people may be more at risk of becoming infected as they tend to live in much larger multi-generational households where it would be difficult to shield them from the disease.  There are also many younger people who are more vulnerable, because of HIV, TB, malnutrition and other health conditions. There is very limited evidence that higher temperatures (above 29’) and more humid environments may slow the transmission of COVID19iii. However, health system collapse, and the higher proportion of vulnerable younger people, could result in higher mortality. 

Impact on health care

The COVID19 pandemic is now in many African countries. The response has been rapid and firm from many governments, perhaps learning from Ebola public health measures. The Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) established the Africa Taskforce for Coronavirus (AFCOR) as early as February 5, before the continent had reported a single caseiv. The estimate is that over $200 billion will be needed to implement the Africa-CDC preparedness strategy. Additional resources will be needed to tackle the direct and indirect non-health consequences of this crisisv.

Many African countries are putting in place full lockdowns at a much earlier stage of local outbreaks than most European countries did. All the talk in the news is of “flattening the curve” so that the number of COVID19 patients do not overwhelm the healthcare system. In low income countries, the principle is the same, although the risk is a collapse of primary health care and basic hospital care, as critical care facilities are very sparse. This risks people with other acute needs missing out altogether. We could see maternal and infant mortality rise, as well as mortality from many other conditions.

However, it will be interesting to see how innovation in Africa comes up with better solutions, for example a simplified triaging such as that developed in Uganda, where health facilities do not have access to X-raysvi

Mitigation and suppression

The simplest strategies include reaching all communities to advise basic public health measures such as hand washing, cough hygiene and self-isolation for anyone with symptomsvii. Many countries are practiced with community public health messaging and will already have implemented these. But what about where water and soap are not easy to get?

Another major tool is case finding and contact tracing to break chains of transmission. Testing helps with this, however, limited availability of reliable testing kits would limit the feasibility of this option in most resource-poor countries.

More draconian strategies being used include social distancing to reduce face to face contacts by varying degree of lockdowns. This should be combined with sheltering of the elderly and vulnerable. WHO recommends that there should also be ongoing surveillance to test and isolate all identified cases and their household members as rapidly as possible to reduce onward transmission. Testing should also be used to check health workers, protecting patients, but access to testing is limited and patchy, and not always fast enough.

Misinformation can drive risky or useless behaviours. There is concern that myths are circulating on social media and through informal community networks. Authorities are working hard to effectively communicate factual information across different community groups and to counteract inaccurate, false statements relating to COVID19.

Social distancing is often impossible, leading to severe hardship and is perhaps even dangerous. According to estimates by UN-Habitat, 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living in slums in 2010, or 61.7 per cent of the region’s urban population, the highest rate in the world. A very vivid account of the how the control measures advocated across the world may do more harm than good in large slum cities such as Lagos is laid out by Nigerian journalist OluTimehin Adegbeye viii

Masks for all

COVID19 is spread through droplets and possibly aerosols from an infected personix.  Guidance from WHO and in most countries has been for those with symptoms and those caring for them to wear masks, but not healthy peoplex.  WHO reviewed this evidence on 6th April and did not change this advice. They emphasised that surgical masks should be reserved for care staff and symptomatic people. There is insufficient evidence for cloth masks for the publicxi Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation Executive Director of Health Emergencies, talked on April 3rd about the use of cloth masks for the public, but warns that the main driver of this disease is infected people coughing and contaminating. He said that cloth masks risked people not using the proven prevention measures but reluctantly conceded that they “may not be a bad idea in some contexts”xii Time will tell, and any country advocating this should research its impact.

Economic and social impact

Apart from the direct effect of COVID19 deaths, there will be enormous short- and long-term indirect impacts on health and wellbeing. Few African countries have comprehensive social protection in place, although many have some form that could be extended and implemented quickly to get money to those who are most vulnerable. The UNDP says: “Income losses are expected to exceed $220 billion in developing countries. With an estimated 55 per cent of the global population having no access to social protection, these losses will reverberate across societies, impacting education, human rights and, in the most severe cases, basic food security and nutrition”

Women and children may suffer the most. Closed schools mean lost education but also children exposed to sexual and physical abuse.

Conclusion

One size does not fit allxiii The global impact will vary, with variation in who is vulnerable, who will die from the virus and who will die from the effects of control measuresxiv . A combination of home isolation of suspected cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household, and social distancing of elderly people and others at most risk of severe disease as optimal mitigation policies, which might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by a halfxv. But the cost of these measures may mean a greater toll in the longer term, with a severe slowing of development progress.

What can partnerships do?

Ask your partners what challenges they are facing and what do they think you can help with now. Think laterally:

  1. Do they want information and guidance?
  2. What can you do about social protection measures?
  3. How could you help health workers protect themselves?
  4. What would help your partners to mitigate the impact on communities?
  5. Can you fundraise and send money safely to your partners?
  6. Provide signposting to guidance and information that is appropriate
  7. Review your current projects: you will not be able to visit for many months, so how else can you deliver the objectives? DO you need to switch to something different? Discuss with your funder and just do it
  8. Fundraise for your partners or for other organisations (for example the WHO COVID19 Solidarity Response Fund)
  9. Consider longer term goals and objectives: what will you need to do differently in the longer term?

Resources for Africa

  1. Africa Centre for Disease Control https://africacdc.org/
  2. WHO Afro https://www.afro.who.int/
  3. WHO COVID19 resources https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
  4. openWHO courses https://openwho.org/
  5. International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) https://ianphi.org/news/2020/covid-resources.html
  6. London School of Tropical Medicine COVID 19 https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/
  7. Our World in Data stats, charts and maps https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus#confirmed-covid-19-deaths-by-country



i Wycliffe E. Wei, Zongbin Li; Calvin J. Chiew et al Presymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — Singapore, January 23–March 16, 2020 Early Release / April 1, 2020 / 69 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6914e1.htm?s_cid=mm6914e1_w

ii Patrick GT Walker, Charles Whittaker, Oliver Watson et al,  WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling; MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis; Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics; Imperial College London, UK  Report 12 - The global impact of COVID-19 and strategies for mitigation and suppression http://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/covid-19/report-12-global-impact-covid-19/

iii Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Oxford, Do weather conditions influence the transmission of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)?  https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/do-weather-conditions-influence-the-transmission-of-the-coronavirus-sars-cov-2/

viRodgers R Ayebare, Robert Flick, Solome Okware et al Adoption of COVID-19 triage strategies for low-income settings The Lancet March 11, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30114-4 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30114-4/fulltext#articleInformation

viii OluTimehin Adegbeye Why social distancing won’t work for us The Correspondent March 2020 https://thecorrespondent.com/378/why-social-distancing-wont-work-for-us/441111671154-a87a2691

ix National Research Council 2020. Rapid Expert Consultation on the Possibility of Bioaerosol Spread of SARS-CoV-2 for the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 1, 2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25769.

xiii Editorial, The Lancet Redefining vulnerability in the era of COVID-19 Volume 395, ISSUE 10230, P1089, April 04, 2020 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30757-1/fulltext

xiv Patrick GT Walker, Charles Whittaker, Oliver Watson et al,  WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling; MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis; Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics; Imperial College London, UK  Report 12 - The global impact of COVID-19 and strategies for mitigation and suppression http://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/covid-19/report-12-global-impact-covid-19/

xv NeilMFerguson, Daniel  Laydon,  Gemma  Nedjati-Gilani et al Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand Imperial College London 16/3/2020  https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

Volunteers wanted - are you looking for a new challenge?

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If you’re looking to expand your skills, use your existing skills for the greater good, or to bridge the gap between your experience and a career in international development, volunteering with Hub Cymru Africa may be for you.

We’re currently living through eventful times both in the UK and globally, with the spread of Coronavirus causing many of us to work from home, or casting uncertainty over jobs and careers. Hub Cymru Africa work with many organisations who are continuing to plan projects that link together Wales and Africa, and who would benefit from volunteer support.

Volunteering doesn’t have to be office-based – in fact, we’ve helped people carry out volunteering projects remotely in the past, and in these uncertain times, volunteering your time and skills can help you gain valuable experience that could be of benefit once the situation with COVID19 is under control. And of course, it will positively impact the organisations that we help to support, which has impact on the lives of those living in Africa.

You could already have experience in an area, such as fundraising or communications, and want to donate some of your time to helping our partner organisations achieve their potential. Or you could be a student or job-seeker starting from scratch, and are looking to get some relevant international development work onto your CV. Whatever your level of experience, we’d like to hear from you.

You could gain experience in the following:

  • Writing for fundraising
  • Communications and digital media
  • Administration and organisation

To find out more information, email enquiries@hubcymruafrica.org.uk with the subject line ‘Volunteering’ and we’ll be in touch to help you find the perfect opportunity.

COVID19 in sub-Saharan Africa: What you need to know

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The situation with COVID19 is changing daily, and there are conflicting reports on what steps should be taken to avoid being exposed. What do development organisations need to take into account when planning partnership activities over the next few months?

Dr Kathrin Thomas, GP, Public Health Doctor and Chair of the Wales for Afri