Both the UN Commission for Africa and the WHO have warned Africa could be the pandemic’s next epicenter.
Rabat – The novel coronavirus could kill up to 3.3 million people in Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa warned in a new report.
The April 16 report, titled “COVID-19 in Africa: Protecting Lives and Economies,” found that “anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19, depending on the intervention measures taken to stop the spread.”
The report outlines how Africa’s population, particularly in sub-Saharan countries, could be more susceptible to the virus.
The African population is more vulnerable to the disease “because 56 per cent of the urban population is concentrated in overcrowded and poorly serviced slum dwellings (excluding North Africa).”
The UN commission added that only 34% of households across the continent have access to running water and basic sanitation facilities. Furthermore, 71% of the continental population cannot work from home, making them more vulnerable to the virus’ economic ramifications.
“Close to 40 per cent of children under 5 years of age in Africa are undernourished,” the report noted.
The commission also analyzed the economic impact on the continent, revealing worrying predictions about the fate of Africa if no action is taken. “The impact on African economies could be the slowing of growth to 1.8 per cent in the best case scenario or a contraction of 2.6 per cent in the worst case.”
“This has the potential to push 27 million people into extreme poverty,” the report warned.
The researchers from Imperial College London used mathematical modeling techniques to provide worst and best case scenarios, allowing for collaborative planning and preventative measures.
In order to combat the spread of the pandemic in Africa, the UN commission is calling for a streamlined, joint effort to face the crisis.
“To protect and build towards our shared prosperity at least $100 billion is needed to immediately resource a health and social safety net response,” the commission explained.
The report added that a further $100 billion is “critical for economic emergency stimulus.” The stimulus would cover debt standstill and facilitation of government debt obligations, as well as help with cash flow in the private sector.
“African economies are interconnected: our response must bring us together as one,” the report argued. “The development finance institutions must at this time play an unprecedented counter-cyclical role to protect the private sector and save jobs.”
Rapidly rising numbers
The report follows similar research from the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO models suggest that the continent could see up to 10 million new coronavirus cases in the next six months if no action is taken.
Michel Yao, head of emergency operations for WHO Africa, said at a press conference on April 16 that the predictions could change if preventative measures are put in place.
“It’s difficult to make a long-term estimation because the context changes too much and also public health measures, when they are fully implemented, they can actually have an impact,” Yao told reporters.
WHO Africa Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti told the BBC that the battle against COVID-19 in Africa must be defense rather than attack.
“We want to minimise the proportion of people who get to the point of needing critical care in an ICU, because we know that these types of facilities are not adequate by any means in the majority of African countries,” she explained.
According to statistics from the AU Centers for Disease Control, the number of novel coronavirus cases in Africa currently sits at 18,333. So far, 961 people have died after contracting the virus.
North Africa remains the hardest hit region on the continent, with 8,101 cases. Morocco has the region’s highest number of confirmed cases and now reports that 2,283 people have tested positive for coronavirus.
Egypt (2,673) and Algeria (2,268) sit just behind Morocco, while Tunisia reports only 822 confirmed cases.
The number of cases in West Africa has now reached 4,188 and 1,237 people have died after catching COVID-19.
Southern Africa has 2,790 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,605 in South Africa. East African countries have confirmed 1,801 cases, and Central Africa currently has 1,453 COVID-19 patients.
Though the continental figures remain relatively low compared to Europe and North America, both the WHO and the UN have urged African governments to remain vigilant and to take every step possible to prevent the shocking research models from becoming reality.