Mr Kapil Narain, a 24-year-old final year medical student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN`s), Nelson Mandela School of Medicine has been appointed as the Chair of FAMSA (Federation of African Medical Students Association) COVID-19 Technical Working group (TWG).
This is a continent-wide youth response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This committee comprises of members from 15 countries, with equal gender balance, and French and Arab translators to ensure that all countries in Africa can access information generated by this group.
Narain`s appointment is based on research and leadership experience and as the only South African on the committee, his duties as chair, include; planning a coordinated response cognisant of the global and local contexts of the pandemic by leading discussions amongst the committee regarding potential areas of intervention, and ensuring youth are at the forefront of these movements.
Narain said, ‘I am honoured to be appointed to this position and I am excited to be working with students throughout various regions in Africa to play a vital part towards combating this pandemic through research, awareness, activism, and art, as well as engaging with various health bodies. Currently, the pandemic has reached the 5 million mark with over 300 000 deaths globally. Whilst the United States currently has the highest cases globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that Africa may be the next epicentre. This is a serious concern noting the fragility of health systems. Now more than ever – we require all hands on deck!’
As a group of medical students, the objective of TWG is to be at the forefront in the response against COVID-19 across Africa.
It`s roles include:
- Sharing facts about COVID-19 to dispel myths and misconceptions about the pandemic;
- Carrying out online campaigns on COVID-19;
- Keeping abreast with the latest research and providing sound technical advice aligned to WHO;
- Leading medical students from across the continent in researching COVID-19 by developing standard operating procedures and guidelines;
- Sharing information on how medical students from across the continent are contributing towards the response to COVID-19;
- Acknowledging the efforts of various workforces from across the continent in the fight against COVID-19;
- Highlighting challenges faced by African countries and potentially providing innovative solutions and;
- Working with the FAMSA executive council to involve medical students from across Africa in the fight against COVID-19.
These initiatives are guided by subcommittees in research, public health awareness/response and the creative hub.
The TWG has so far had a consultation with African Union youth envoy, Ms Aya Chebbi. FAMSA is also part of the African Youth Front – a multi-stakeholders advocacy group designed to provide a platform for youth to contribute to the implementation of the African Continental Strategic Plan for the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As chair, Narain has also been invited as a panellist for a webinar with junior doctors and medical students that was recently held on 12 May 2020. This was hosted by Operation Smile – a global non-profit organisation dedicated to delivering free surgery. Narain said, ‘I was honoured to share the platform with young leaders from Cameroon, Canada, United States, Greece and Germany, to discuss how students are contributing to the pandemic.’
Narain had the privilege of being invited to the Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC) which is responsible for monitoring global public health events at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in November last year. He also attended the World Health Assembly on Scholarship in May 2019, where he had the opportunity to speak to Director-General Dr Tedros.