African health ministers met on Tuesday to take stock of the continent’s fight against COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to stretch health systems to breaking point in some countries and just 2% of all Africans are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Ministers assessed immediate actions needed to curb Africa’s third wave, which saw COVID-19 cases in Africa surpass seven million, reach a record weekly peak of over 250 000 in early July and drive up deaths to a record weekly peak of over 6400 in early August.

The third wave has declined over the last five weeks since the peak in early July, but 16 countries are still experiencing a surge in new cases.

The special online session aimed to brief ministers on the state of COVID-19 across the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region, share approaches in tackling the pandemic and discuss how African countries can learn from COVID-19 and build more sustainable systems to prevent, detect and respond to future health emergencies.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti says, “Africa has shown leadership, determination and fortitude and I commend the swift action and tough decisions taken by African governments, particularly early on in the pandemic. We must build on this renewed unity of purpose to strengthen our surveillance systems, bolster treatment capacities, step up the supply of crucial medicines and swiftly vaccinate those most in need. COVID-19 has been a ruthless reminder that we must invest in our health systems for the health, security and prosperity of all Africans.”

Below is the full statement: