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Residents watch as police and National Defense Forces search for a business they thought was illegally open in Johannesburg on March 30, 2020. South Africa went into a nationwide lockdown for 21 days in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
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Health

This Company Is Using Technology to Track COVID-19 in Ghana


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The global outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to put the progress made toward achieving the United Nations’ Global Goals under threat as individuals, communities, and nations shut down schools and businesses that are not classified as essential services. You can take action here to support global COVID-19 efforts.

Like many African nations, Ghana responded to the first cases of COVID-19 reported in the country in March by announcing curfew, banning social gatherings, and implementing other lockdown measures in an effort to contain the spread of the outbreak in the country.

But Ghana can now add tech tools to its strategy.

A software company, Cognate System, is using technology to track and monitor cases in Ghana. The country has just over 3,000 cases at the moment.

Cognate System has a platform called Opine Health Assistant, which turns any mobile phone into a self-monitoring tool that allows users to record and track coronavirus symptoms.

The platform is free to use and doesn’t need an internet connection, which are typically poor and costly within Ghana.

"To use the platform, they have to dial the short code *920*222# or *714*444# on their mobile phones and then follow the prompts to answer questions about symptoms and other risk factors," Kwabena Nuamah, co-founder of Cognate Systems, told CNN.

The information collected by Opine Health Assistant traces a user’s contacts, age, location, and travel history. It also asks if the user needs social support like food and shelter.

"When people fill the form, with the information they give us, we can analyse and predict if the person is likely to be infected by the virus," Nuamah said. "We can also use the location of those who have symptoms to predict new regions that are likely to get hit by the virus."

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Being able to test high-risk individuals, such as those who were potentially in contact with a coronavirus-positive person, is crucial in fighting COVID-19, according to Dr. Mary Stephens of the World Health Organisation's Regional Office for Africa.

Stephens told Global Citizen that African countries need to curb the spread of the pandemic before it manages to overwhelm the region’s already fragile health systems. She said the ability to report suspected cases, test for COVID-19, and isolate positive cases is crucial to containing the pandemic. 

The information collected by Opine Health Assistant will be shared with scientists, public health experts, and disease surveillance teams. Nuamah said another aim of the health assistant is to help predict high-risk areas and prepare for future outbreaks.

COVID-19 has already led to job cuts and losses that are set to affect 1.25 billion workers worldwide, according to the International Labour Organisation. Meanwhile, food banks across the world are seeing large numbers of people who are in need of food.

"With over 60% of the African continent’s population in rural areas and dependent on smallholder or family farming, the risk from the COVID-19 pandemic to food supply chains, market access, and nutrition is high," the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in April. 

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Opine Health Assistant asks users a set of questions aimed at determining their social security.  

"For people who might need food or shelter, within the series of questions, there is a part that asks for their location. We pass the locations to relief providers who are in our databases like churches and NGOs," explained Nuamah. 

"If a person says he is in Accra, for example, and needs food. We share this information with relief providers in Accra so they can identify people in that region and match them with supplies,” he added.

You can take urgent and meaningful actions like calling on G20 states to commit funding to the efforts; share the word about the WHO's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund; and learn about the virus and how to keep yourself healthy here.

You can see all of Global Citizen's COVID-19 coverage here.

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