Many African countries have little or no medical equipment required to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients. Public hospitals in 41 of the countries in Africa altogether have about 2,000 medical ventilators, reports New York Times. Ten Africa countries are said to have none at all.
South Sudan, a country of 11 million people, has more vice presidents (5) than medical ventilators, according to the newspaper. In the Central African Republic, there are three of those devices out of five million population.
Experts say that it is not clear for all countries exactly how many medical ventilators and intensive care beds are available. Shortages are politically sensitive.
A lack of medical equipment can have significant consequences if the virus spreads further around the continent. Experts have been warning for some time about the potential impact of a major outbreak in countries with weak health systems.
In some places in Africa, there is a lack of not only medical ventilators and protective equipment such as mouth masks but also of clean water and hand soap.
Attempts are still being made in Africa to get more equipment. For example, the Economic Community of West African States is trying to purchase medical ventilators.
Liberia has ordered twenty of those machines, but according to the government, it is challenging to beat rich countries on the world market that want to buy the same equipment.
“Even if we have a contract, there is no guarantee that it will be delivered,” said the Liberian Information Minister. He says that after agreements were already made, a seller suddenly increased the price from $15,000 per respirator to $24,000. There are currently six known devices in Liberia, one of which is located in the United States Embassy.
The major countries in Africa are also facing shortages. Nigeria asked entrepreneur Elon Musk to send at least 100 respirators via Twitter. That cry for help was later removed.
Chinese business magnate Jack Ma has also pledged aid to Africa. He promised to send at least 500 respirators.
It is still unclear exactly how many people in Africa are infected with the coronavirus, but as of today, there is over 77,421 total number of cases.
Testing is often limited. Sending respirators is probably not enough in many places. Trained personnel are also required to operate the devices and a stable power supply to keep them running.