Coronavirus, Africa: international aid needed

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Coronavirus: Africa needs more international aids to deal with the Covid-19 emergency. The country is strengthening its healthcare structures but it needs help

Coronavirus, Africa: international aid needed

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The joint WHO and World Bank press conference reported that there are currently 17,000 confirmed cases in Africa and 900 total deaths.  The most affected countries remain South Africa and the Arab countries of the Mediterranean area, which account for more than half of the cases on the whole continent. But these figures may not be true. In fact, the states mentioned above are the most developed and therefore the ones that can afford the most tests.

In countries like Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, only five cases in total have been detected. In a further 14 countries there are less than 20 cases. Another serious problem that is taking shape especially in West Africa is the spread of fake news among the population of the most isolated villages, for which natural oils and herbs would be sufficient to prevent contagion. The World Health Organization is sending experts in each country who can speak the local languages to address this problem and to explain directly to the communities the importance of social distancing and protection systems. Director General Gebreyesus, meanwhile, sounded the alarm: “in the last week the number of victims has more than doubled and the virus could kill up to 3 million people”. South Africa is currently at the top of the ranking with more than 2,400 cases. In one of the world’s countries where the division between social classes is still very marked, it is clear that in major cities and wealthier areas social distancing is working while in townships it is almost impossible to implement the appropriate measures.

Yesterday, the World Bank and the IMF held their spring meeting where they discussed further measures to help the whole continent in terms of both health and economic aid. The entire Africa sees on the horizon the first great recession of its history, having been affected neither by that of ’29, nor by the one after the Second World War, nor by that of 2008. Some African states in the last 15 years have had an average annual growth of between 6% and 8% with a consequent general improvement in living conditions. In these countries it will be more possible to implement social appropriation measures, but at the same time these are the countries that will suffer the most from the recession.

Those that had invested a lot of resources in tourism and improved their security standards in order to attract more foreign travelers will suffer an economic standoff in the next 12 months because most European and North American countries are likely to be unable to allow their citizens to travel freely outside their borders, even though they have overcome the virus. Suffice it to say that some states like Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania receive almost 10% of their GDP from international tourism. Another sector that will be seriously affected will be the oil export sector.  The price of crude oil is falling more and more and this will increase competition and directly affect the national economies of the exporting states. The WFP, the African Union and the Government of Ethiopia have organized the distribution of food and medical supplies throughout East Africa and will try to extend the program to as many people as possible. Jack Ma, former owner and founder of Alibaba, has provided the largest private donation to the continent, sending 1.1 million tests and 60,000 gowns to 54 African countries.

In Ethiopia there are currently only 92 cases, but the real positives are probably many more. The government manages to carry out 500 tests a day and the only 3 laboratories in Addis Ababa are working non-stop. The government aims to reach 500 ICUs by the end of April to better prepare for the wave of infection. A thousand ventilators are also coming in from China and will bring the ICUs up to 1500. “The government has recently released some prisoners from jails and canisters of water with soap have been installed outside each shop,” says Claudio Napolitano, who works at the Italian Embassy in Addis. Although it will be possible to control the contagion in the best areas of the city, it will be difficult to do the same in the slums. “There have been the first cases of intolerance towards us white people, they call us ‘Corona’. Some westerners received insults on the street”. In Ethiopia, meanwhile, orthodox Easter will be celebrated on Sunday. Avoiding the gatherings will not be easy.

Africa is preparing as well as it can for the impact with the asteroid Covid-19. Each country is raising its barriers and fortifying its health facilities. To limit the damage, however, more international aid is essential. The recent tensions between Trump and the WHO do not presage anything good. China is proving to be a good ally for African countries, and when the storm passes, the European Union will have to emulate it.

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