Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Xinhua/Liu Qu)

African youth have come up with innovations that address a host of health-related challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Friday.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said the continent is currently the new frontier for health innovations spurred by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is one of the most serious health challenges in a generation, but it is also an opportunity to drive forward innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurship in life-saving health technologies,” Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

A WHO analysis indicates that more than 120 health innovations have been piloted in Africa since the pandemic was reported in the continent early this year.

Africa accounts for 12.8 percent of 1,000 new or modified technologies that have been developed globally to strengthen COVID-19 response in key areas like surveillance, contact tracing and treatment.

“It is great to see the youthful energy of the continent fired up to fight COVID-19,” Moeti said. “Solar-powered automatic handwashing tools, mobile applications that build on Africa’s rapidly growing connectivity… these home-grown innovations are uniquely adapted to the African context.”

According to the WHO analysis, 57.8 percent of health technologies and innovations in Africa were driven by information and communications technology (ICT), 25 percent were based on 3D printing and 10.9 percent were robotics.

The analysis cited ICT-based innovations such as WhatsApp chatbots in South Africa, self-diagnostic tools in Angola, contact tracing apps in Ghana and mobile health innovation tools in Nigeria.

South Africa had the highest number of health innovations linked to COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 13 percent, followed by Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda that accounted for 10 percent, 8 percent and 6 percent.

It is encouraging to witness a flood of health innovations in Africa during the pandemic era, Moeti said, adding that a robust policy and regulatory environment and financing are crucial to realizing long-term benefits. Enditem

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