The crisis that is engulfing the world presents a huge challenge to DMI.

We currently have operations and staff in nine African countries, each with strong relationships with both Ministries of Health and media organisations.

The Ebola crisis showed that it is vital to continue with existing health campaigns, otherwise people die unnecessarily from other diseases. So we are determined to follow WHO advice and continue our campaigns on topics such as malaria, diarrhoea, and pneumonia as well as family planning.

At this point we do not know the extent to which COVID-19 will impact Sub-Saharan Africa. Certainly the epidemic is at an early stage, but epidemiological predictions vary greatly. A model developed by Imperial College London published in late March suggested that around 2.5 million Africans would die of COVID-19 in Africa by the end of 2020 if the pandemic were left unmitigated. A LSHTM study published on April 30th predicted even greater numbers of deaths. Another recent paper estimates that hundreds of thousands of children’s lives could be lost due to the secondary effects of the pandemic, such as reduced uptake of vaccinations and reduced attendance at healthcare facilities. By contrast, WHO Africa’s model published in early May takes account of the mitigation measures already taken and predicts approximately 150,000 deaths in the first year. It really is too early to say.

What is clear is that the outcomes of the pandemic will depend heavily on the behaviours of individuals in each country. This is a disease that affects everyone, whether directly or indirectly, and its course will be influenced by the extent to which people respect hand and respiratory hygiene guidelines, physical distancing, and shielding of the vulnerable. We have strong evidence from previous trials that mass media is the most efficient way of persuading millions of people to adopt these behaviours.

DMI is already broadcasting COVID-19 campaigns in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. We aim to extend this to Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, and Zambia as soon as we possibly can. We work directly with Ministries of Health and receive direct guidance from Africa CDC and WHO. We are fortunate to have received funds already from GiveWell, the Skoll Foundation, UBS Optimus Foundation, and the Mulago Foundation as well as a number of private donors. This has allowed us to start work quickly while we seek additional funds. We would welcome the opportunity to speak to partners who might be able to support this initiative.

This is work that we are determined to do. It’s one of the reasons DMI was created. I’ve been humbled by the determination of our staff around the world to make a difference. We will do everything we can.

Roy Head, CEO