African Politics and Policy

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Some numbers or why we need to worry

The press reported that the number of African countries that are able to perform tests to detect Coronavirus has increased. It has actually tripled. Source: here

This would be fantastic news if it weren’ t for the fact that the number of countries where labs can run proper tests has increased from 2 (Senegal, South Africa) to 6 (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Madagascar). This means that 90 per cent of the continent is not able to run such tests.

If one considers that in Africa roughly 332 million people are affected by severe food insecurity (, that nearly 24 million people in Africa have HIV (, that 645 million people live in rural areas ( where health facilities may be less than ideal and/or hard to rich, and that Africa is already coping with 56 outbreaks, the arrival of the coronavirus and the inability to contain it may have catastrophic consequences.

In the press, in recent days, some observers have remarked that the coronavirus is not as deadly as SARS. Nearly 84 per cent of those who contracted the coronavirus have so far survived. But one should not forget that, in the end, diseases that are more easily transmitted produce a higher number of victims than deadlier diseases that can be less easily transmitted. Measles, as we were the first to note and as the African press later repeated, has made and is making more victims in the continent than Ebola in DRC.

This is why one can only hope that coronavirus does not reach the African shore or that, if it does, that it is immediately contained. The alternative could otherwise be a catastrophe of massive proportions.

riccardo pelizzo

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