The Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria have released a study that shows possible high rates of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality among children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Conducted in six countries, including Ghana, the report revealed that hospitalizations recorded in these countries were substantially higher than those reported in non-African settings.

They were also independently associated with age younger than one year and selected non-communicable disease comorbidities.

Other countries sampled were Nigeria, DR. Congo, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, with data collated from 25 health facilities from March 1 to December 31, 2020.

Parts of the study read, “among those with complete information, 160 of 463 patients (34.6%) were either admitted to the ICU (69 of 461 patients [15.0%]) or required supplemental oxygen (143 of 452 patients [31.6%]). A total of 76 of 379 patients (20.1%) received noninvasive respiratory support via high-flow nasal cannula, and 34 of 436 patients (7.8%; 34 of 160 patients [21.2%] admitted to the ICU required invasive mechanical ventilation.”

In the case of Ghana, in particular, two facilities—the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH) and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) were involved in the study.

The Ghana study was led by Dr. Evans Agbeno of CCTH and the University of Cape Coast.

Other participating Ghanaian investigators included paediatricians Dr. Ella Amoako of CCTH and Dr. Anthony Enimil of KATH.

Dr. Nadia Sam-Agudu is an Associate Professor of Paediatrics affiliated with the University of Cape Coast School of Medical Sciences as well as the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

She led the West Africa team and was a co-first author for the publication.

“The AFREhealth study brings several things to light: children aged zero to 19 years in Ghana and other African countries are affected by COVID-19, and some have severe illness and need hospitalization. Unfortunately, African children admitted to COVID-19 die at much higher rates than children admitted to hospitals in higher-income countries.”

“We need to make COVID-19 vaccination available for Ghanaian children to protect them from severe disease and death, and we also need to improve our hospital facilities to provide more life-saving care for seriously ill children”,  Dr. Sam-Agudu said.

The study, which was published in the JAMA Paediatrics journal, was conducted through collaboration under the African Forum for Research and Education in Health, a consortium of cross-disciplinary health personnel across Africa.

Click here for the full report.

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