There are more than 8,673 cases of coronavirus in Africa, our continent seems, so far, relatively preserved from Covid-19. But the population density and the health system of some countries in Africa raise fears of the worst, as some specialists explain.
While the Covid-19 epidemic has infected nearly a million people worldwide, Africa remains relatively unaffected with around 8,673 officially reported cases as of April 5th, 2020.
These deadly disease lung virus – Coronavirus – was detected in Egypt, on February 14th, 2020, that the first case of Covid-19 was identified in Africa. However, six weeks later, on the African continent, at least 8,673 people were identified as infected for 390 deaths.
These figures, which are low compared to other continents, are explained by various factors: such as the lack of international mobility towards this region or the presence of a young population which is generally more resistant to this type of virus. But conversely, it is a fragile population for various reasons.
First of all, there are a few trips from Europe or China to Africa. For example, the war in the Sahel has led to a considerable drop in tourism in West Africa. The majority of trips to Africa are made within the continent.
On this point, a study of February 20th, 2020, published in the scientific journal The Lancet, worked on the volume of air travel from airports in infected provinces in China and directed to Africa between January 2019 and February 2020. They then deduced that Algeria, Egypt, and South Africa would be the countries of hardest hit. It turns out that this Sunday, April 5th, these are the three countries with the highest number of cases (1,251, 1,070, and 1,585 confirmed cases respectively as of today).
This shows that the coronavirus is very dependent on the mobility of people to spread around the world, and that containment measures can counter this epidemic.
In Africa, many cases of Covid-19 may go unnoticed for certain factors. According to medical anthropologist and researcher at CNRS, Yannick Jaffré explains. In essence, ‘40% of the African population is under 15 years of age, and when faced with the disease, they are more resistant and more often than not asymptomatic”. But even if the population is very young, it remains vulnerable.
Arnaud Banos, geographer and research director at CNRS, explains to HuffPost: “For HIV, two-thirds of carriers live in Africa and for tuberculosis, a quarter of new cases appear in Africa”. These people will be more vulnerable to coronavirus. For the researcher, African countries must do as much screening as the WHO advice to prevent the development of the disease. This could allow nations to break the chain of contamination.
Besides, implementing lockdown measures will be complicated. On this point, the lockdown measure is going to be something difficult for a part of the population who earns money from day to day to feed themselves. In addition, some African megalopolises have a very high population density, which makes this stay at home even more complicated.
Poor health system
In terms of health, not all African countries are housed in the same boat. Many are dependent on assistance from NGOs, the United Nations, or other states. But this can be problematic. First, access to water and soap is problematic for part of the African population. Without this, it is almost impossible to put in place effective hygiene measures. Besides, most of the respirators that hospitals have are donations, so the question of their maintenance will be problematic. They often do not have spare parts.
Another problem is people’s confidence in their governments and their health systems. We have seen in the context of Ebola that the populations do not trust their leaders. In some cases, families prefer to keep the patient at home rather than taking him to the hospital. Also, in some countries, populations favor “shortcut”. They will instead buy drugs from street vendors than go to the doctor, get a prescription, and go to the pharmacy. It will, therefore, be challenging to identify the cases of Covid-19 in various countries.
Despite everything, the coronavirus has not yet developed very much in Africa because of various causes. Temperatures and climate may also be factors, but researchers lack data to be sure. What is certain is that if the epidemic develops in Africa, the consequences could be significant for the populations.