About 24 Chinese doctors will go to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. So far, the continent has had fewer deaths than more developed regions of the world; however, the healthcare systems in many African countries are woefully inadequate and could facilitate an outbreak. The continent has less than one hospital bed per thousand people. The European Union and the United States are providing aid. The economy is a source of concern.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – China has sent 24 doctors to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso to help local health authorities fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Beijing is following the European Union and the United States are already helping African countries, where the pandemic has been hitherto less virulent than in economically more developed regions of the world.
According to African Arguments, a pan-African news and information platform, some 18,500 confirmed cases have been reported in Africa with 968 deaths, based on data from the World Health Organisation and John Hopkins University.
Egypt leads with 2,605 cases, followed by South Africa, Morocco and Algeria.
African countries were among the first to close borders and ban gatherings of people. Tunisia, Rwanda and Mauritius were the first to impose a full lockdown. South Africa too has confined all its citizens.
Cameroon is conducting nationwide testing to contain the outbreak. So far, it has reported 996 cases, 22 deaths, and 164 people hospitalised.
About a thousand Chinese doctors and healthcare staff are already involved in Africa as a whole. Last week, a Chinese medical team arrived in to Algeria. Beijing has also provided US$ 1.5 million in aid to Nigeria.
The European Union and the United States have their own aid plans to support the fight against COVID-19 in Africa.
The EU is devoting some of its €20 billion (US$ 22 billion) pandemic fund to Africa. Washington instead is sending medical supplies and equipment worth US$ 27 million.
Burkina Faso and Ethiopia have a weak healthcare system, which could favour the spread of the virus. Other African nations are in the same situation.
In Zimbabwe the health system has collapsed. There is a shortage of medical drugs and supplies. The lack of running water in many parts of the country could speed up an outbreak.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the threat of COVID-19 comes on top of cholera, Ebola and measles outbreaks, as well as internal strife.
The World Bank reports that on the continent has less than one hospital bed per thousand inhabitants. The European Union estimates that there is one doctor per 10,000 inhabitants, compared to 37 in the Union.
Africa’s economy is also a source of concern. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the combined GDP of sub-Saharan Africa will drop by 1.6 per cent in 2020, down from a plus 3.1 per cent in 2019.
South Africa and Nigeria, the continent’s main economies, are expected to contract by 5.8 and 3.4 per cent respectively.