Attributed to Yacine Djibo, Founder and Executive Director of Speak Up Africa

This year, the world has been united in its fight against COVID-19. The virus has left no corner of the world untouched, as countries and people around the globe have worked together to defeat a common foe.

However, whilst this new enemy posed an immediate health threat, we understood that this diverted focus could have potentially devastating impacts on the fight against more longstanding enemies such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. COVID-19 places pressure on already fragile health care systems, meaning that those in need of treatment for other diseases are at risk of being ignored and decades of hard-earned progress are at risk of being reversed.

COVID-19 highlights the need for increased investment in Africa’s health systems to protect communities from COVID-19 and other common diseases. When it comes to malaria, one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases, recent modelling data from the World Health Organization has shown that COVID-19 threatens to double malaria deaths in 2020 alone if malaria control interventions in Africa are significantly affected. Similarly, a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy due to coronavirus could lead to more than 500,000 additional deaths from AIDS-related illnesses (including TB) in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020-2021.

With so much at stake, we knew we had to act. That is why we launched Stay Safe Africa, a movement which seeks to bring policymakers, organisations, and individuals across the continent together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Africa. The campaign also supports the African Union COVID-19 Response Fund, by calling on individuals to pool resources and ensure that for other essential health services were not compromised.

Since its launch in April, the campaign has brought together influential organizations, celebrities, and decision makers – such as actor Omar Sy, private sector leaders such as Ecobank’s Group CEO, Ade Ayeyemi and Dr Magda Robalo, Minister for Public Health in Guinea-Bissau – to support our objectives and ensure that communities across Africa were informed about the proper prevention methods.

Most recently, the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) joined the movement, enabling the campaign to reach millions of football fans across the continent with information of critical prevention methods. By working with such an influential and well-known organization, we were able to engage an incredibly large audience of sports fans through a series of social media activations that spread the all-important prevention methods. This included the #19KickupsAgainstCOVID19 challenge, which saw players challenge each other to film and post themselves performing 19 kick-ups on social media.

When it comes to advancing the health agenda, we know that we are stronger when we work together.  As a continent, the fight against COVID-19 has also shown us that we need to maintain investment in Africa’s health systems, to protect us from emerging threats and common diseases.

With the support of leading voices from across the continent like CAF, the African Union and private sector businesses, we have the resources and the will behind us to achieve real change. We encourage more organizations to join our ever-growing campaign – your voice can play an essential role in protecting the continent and creating everlasting impact.