Healthcare workers across Africa share their coronavirus stories

Authorities have done very little in ensuring our safety. Many districts in Cameroon have not received sufficient training, educational materials and PPE.READ MORE

Masks, bans and questions: Inside Cameroon’s COVID-19 response

I learned about safety procedures online, however, many healthcare workers do not have access to the internet. Health workers also do not have access to priority testing – this is both dangerous to them and their patients.

As I speak, official figures suggest at least five doctors have died of the 44 deaths related to COVID-19.

No pay or extra financial support, coupled with constant power cuts at some hospitals, means morale is very low.

COVID-19 in Cameroon (as of April 29) – Confirmed cases: 1,806 – Recoveries: 915 – Deaths: 59 

Coronavirus testing rate increasing in Cameroon (2:34)

Public health official in Liberia

The government partially considered the safety of health workers but there has been little commitment to see this through.READ MORE

Liberia braces for coronavirus with defunct health system

For example, health workers have not received hazard pay for months and many are demotivated and even considering strike action or quitting.

One front-line responder died after contracting the virus and we are yet to get any information regarding an insurance package which was supposedly set aside for the family.

COVID-19 in Ghana (as of April 29) – Confirmed cases: 141 – Recoveries: 45 – Deaths: 16 

Carol, a hospital nurse in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

I am horrified at the lack of action taken by the government – little direction, no transparency, they have refused to implement measures like lockdowns or close places of worship.READ MORE

‘We feel abandoned’: HIV positive Tanzanians brace for COVID-19

As front-line workers, we are simply being ignored and it is terrifying. We are being treated like collateral damage.

COVID-19 in Tanzania (as of April 29) – Confirmed cases: 480 – Recoveries: 167 – Deaths: 10 

Members of a privately-funded NGO working with county officials wearing protective carry their gear during the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the Kenyan Government [Luis Tato/AFP]

Members of a privately-funded NGO working with county officials wearing protective carry their gear during the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the Kenyan government [Luis Tato/AFP]

Dr Thuranira Kaugiria, secretary-general of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union, Nairobi branch, Kenya

To give credit where credit is due, an isolation and treatment facility for healthcare workers has been set up at Kenyatta National Hospital and the Kenyatta University Teaching Research and Referral Hospital in Nairobi.READ MORE

Stamping out misinformation in Kenya’s COVID-19 fight

Furthermore front-line workers at these hospitals that have been in contact with COVID-19 patients – from security staff to doctors – are being tested. This is also the case at Mombasa Coast General Provincial Hospital.

But it is not enough, the government has taken the PR path. They thank us in their speeches, but where is the PPE? Why are healthcare workers being harassed during curfew hours? When will we have comprehensive medical cover?

COVID-19 in Kenya (as of April 29) – Confirmed cases: 384 – Recoveries: 129 – Deaths: 14 

Mary, a hospital nurse in Nairobi, Kenya

A month ago, we downed tools at my hospital due to a lack of training. This has since been rectified.READ MORE

Fury in Kenya over police brutality amid coronavirus curfew

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a welfare package for healthcare workers – I’m sure it is in good faith but the politicians in this country have never appreciated us.

Regardless, we are committed to our jobs and to dealing with this pandemic.

Perhaps COVID-19 will finally lead to people valuing us; perhaps they will remember that we sign up to save lives – we don’t sign up to kill ourselves in the process.

How Kenya’s artists are coping amid COVID-19 pandemic (3:10)

Surgical registrar in Harare, Zimbabwe

The relationship between this government and medics in the country has never been good, with many of us on strike since November 2024.READ MORE

In Zimbabwe, lack of tests sparks fear COVID-19 goes undetected

Ultimately, even during this pandemic, the government has shown us it does not care.

Earlier this month, the High Court ruled that the government must provide PPE for healthcare workers, yet many still do not have it. In March, we called for sufficient risk allowance and their $37 response was laughable. 

There is no screening or priority testing for healthcare workers, and neither is there any insurance package.

My wife and I are both doctors, we have two young daughters and sometimes you wonder whether going to work is even worth the risk. At this point it feels like a choice – don’t go, don’t get paid and die from starvation; go, contract the virus and risk dying from that.

COVID-19 in Zimbabwe (as of April 29) – Confirmed cases: 32 – Recoveries: 5 – Deaths: 

Junior doctor at a COVID-19 ward in South Africa

My hospital is better off than many others, yet I can’t say I feel fully safe as I am concerned that as cases rise so will the shortage in equipment. This is something we are already seeing in the country.READ MORE

Amid lockdown, South Africa’s waste pickers suffer most

Already between four of my colleagues and I, we only have three special visors which we share and reuse. Also, on the ward, there are often only two or three doctors dealing with very sick patients who have to wait 48 hours to get their results, and this is overwhelming.

The government’s decision to enforce a lockdown and ban sales of alcohol was a good move on their part, though due to socio-economic factors the lockdown has meant there are people who are really suffering.

COVID-19 in South Africa (as of April 29) – Confirmed cases: 4,996 – Recoveries: 2,073 – Deaths: 93 

Health workers fill out documents before performing tests for COVID-19 coronavirus on other health workers at the screening and testing tents set up at the Charlotte

Health workers fill out documents before performing coronavirus tests on other health workers at the screening and testing tents set up at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg [Michele Spatari/AFP]

Junior doctor at surgical ward in South Africa

As soon as the country reported its first cases, authorities were quick to provide the hospital with information regarding how the outbreak would be managed.

In terms of front-line workers, as soon as you enter the hospital, you are screened and your temperature is checked. If you feel even one of the symptoms, they test you and send you home and our results are fast-tracked, so we get them within 24 hours.

One big concern is the impact this situation can have on the mental health of front-line staff, especially those that have to isolate from family or live alone.

Some of the interviews have slightly been edited for brevity