The UK has allocated £7.2-million to fund 20 new research projects to help poor countries deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on their most vulnerable populations, including children and refugees. The countries concerned are in Africa and Asia (including the Middle East) and the research will be conducted jointly by institutions in the UK and the countries concerned.
The participating African countries include Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In addition, Oxford University will work with the University of Cape Town to develop an app to give advice to parents, across Africa, whose children have been affected by school closures caused by the pandemic.
“Defeating coronavirus is a truly global endeavour, which is why we’re backing Britain’s scientists and researchers to work with their international counterparts to find tech solutions to treat and combat this virus around the world,” highlighted UK Business Secretary (Cabinet Minister) Alok Sharma. “The research projects we are backing today will ensure that we equip some of the most vulnerable communities with the resources they need to tackle Covid-19 and build their long-term resilience to respond to future pandemics, making us all safer.”
The research areas to be covered vary widely. Thus, Birmingham City University in the UK will work with Zambia’s Lusaka and Ndola Colleges of Nursing to develop improved clinical decision-making processes for nurses, to reduce the time involved in such evaluations and avoid the swamping of healthcare systems. In sharp contrast, the UK’s University of Edinburgh will work with the Open University of Tanzania to determine measures to make voting in African elections more safe and secure by promoting social distancing and thereby slow the spread of the disease.
The University of Bath in the UK and the University of Lagos in Nigeria will seek to deal with the problem of limited Covid-19 test capacity across Africa. They will do so by leading a project to measure Covid-19 in domestic wastewater, which would provide real-time data about the prevalence of the infection across the country. This project will be implemented in South Africa as well as Nigeria.
King’s College London will spearhead a training programme, with Nigeria’s University of Ibadan, Tanzania’s St Francis University College of Health and Allied Sciences, and Uganda’s Makerere University, for healthcare workers across these countries. The training programme will be trialled at 20 health clinics in each country and is intended to allow healthcare workers to provide patients with safe and trusted care, over the telephone (because of limited availability of the Internet). The effectiveness of such ‘remote health appointments’ (suggested by the World Health Organisation) will be tested.
“Covid-19 is demonstrating how the world’s biggest problems transcend rich and poor countries,” stressed UK Research and Innovation international champion Professor Andrew Thompson. “To find lasting, sustainable solutions to help us all during this current pandemic as well as to make us all more resilient for the future, we require global thinking, the mobilisation of global expertise and a global response. That is exactly what these new projects provide. Working together, researchers in the UK and across the Global South will combine their knowledge and experience to develop innovative solutions to help empower local communities to overcome the wide-ranging challenges created by Covid-19.”