Social workers fighting the pandemic in Africa say they are following the crisis in India “with total confidence” and have warned that their continent could soon face a similar ordeal.
“What is happening in India cannot be ignored by our continent,” said John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week. “We do not have enough health workers, we do not have enough oxygen … We can and should not find ourselves in it [India’s] scenario due to the very fragile nature of our health systems. ”
Recent statistics underline that Africa has so far escaped the worst of the pandemic. There were nearly 76,000 new Covid-19 infections in the third week of April, while India alone reported more than 400,000 new cases on Friday.
But although India, with 1.35 billion people, has a population similar to that of the African continent, it has a robust health system. According to the latest figures from the World Bank, there are almost four times as many doctors per capita in India than in the whole of Africa. Unlike India, no African country produces significant amounts of medicines as vaccines, Nkengasong said.
The warning to increase resources in Africa comes as the brutal economic consequences of the pandemic on the continent become increasingly clear.
“The impact has been enormous. “These are countries with very limited social security networks, very high levels of debt and … very little resources to respond to a crisis of this magnitude,” said Murithi Murtiga, an Nairobi-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.
Studies have shown that millions of people in Africa are being driven into poverty and much more forced to surrender hard-won gains in income and quality of life as the effects of the pandemic continue across the continent.
Although analysts predict a stable economic recovery on the continent in 2021, the outbreak has undone years of growth.
The slow outbreak of vaccines in Africa threatens to cause further misery, with new waves of infections likely to bring many more deaths and further economic damage.
The World Health Organization said last month that Africa had given less than 2% of vaccinations worldwide and was left behind. The death toll on the continent is 120,000, although this is thought to be a significant underestimation.
In South Africa, one of the continent’s largest economies and the country worst hit by Covid, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warned last week of a third wave of infections.
Covid has killed 55,000 people in South Africa, according to official figures, with a more transmissible variant causing infections in December and January. Excess mortality statistics suggest that the actual toll may be two or even three times higher.
To date, only 300,000 health workers, totaling 1.25m, have been vaccinated in South Africa, although authorities have promised to expand the program in the coming months.
“What we would like is a situation in which we vaccinate as many people as possible without really worrying about the next wave …. Everything about it remains uncertain …. when it should arise, how bad it is,” he said. Mkhize members of parliament.
The execution of the continent’s vaccine is hampered by the crisis in India, as most of the vaccines delivered to Africa so far through the worldwide vaccine parts facility Covax are AstraZeneca shots made there. . India suspended its exports of the vaccine in March to meet domestic demand.
It remains unclear when exports will resume, Nkengasong said, warning that the situation in India could affect the introduction of vaccines from Africa “for the weeks and maybe months to come”.
Analysis by the Pew Research Center found that the recession caused by Covid has driven 131 million people into poverty around the world. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were good for most of the increase, returning years of progress.
Some 494 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, out of a total population of 1.14 billion, were expected to live in poverty ahead of the pandemic in 2020. That total has risen by 40 million, the Pew analysis estimates .
Although economic growth was erratic and benefits were unevenly distributed, sub-Saharan Africa had no depression until the pandemic for 25 years.
Murtiga described a “multilayered crisis”, despite fairly volatile economies returning rapidly.
“Household budgets have collapsed, and during locks there has been limited support for those who have lost their livelihoods. At the macro level, there is very little fiscal space and this has left countries with a huge task in terms of recovery, ‘he said.
The delay has hit those who earn the most from informal urban jobs the hardest, especially women. In Kenya, one study published earlier this year found many young people had given up education because they were looking to earn money.
“Male teenager reports that she … [idle] in the homes because of the locks of the Covid-19, which does not mean work, but the female youth reports extra work pressure at household level, ‘said study adviser Dr Grace Wamue-Ngare, a professor at Kenyatta University in Nairobi.
In South Africa, statistics released by the South African Commission on Human Rights more than half of the country’s consumers who now borrow money have worried levels of debt. The country’s middle class was wiped out, one newspaper said.
Shopping centers across the country are filled with shuttered businesses, with industry associations closing thousands of restaurants reportedly closing.
Before the pandemic, Africa had the second largest tourism sector in the world, accounting for 8.5% of the continent’s GDP and employing 24 million people. Even the most optimistic forecasts suggest that it will take at least two years for the visitors to return in comparable numbers.
Ntokozo Dube, a tourist guide in Soweto, the municipality south of Johannesburg, has been unemployed for more than a year.
“We are just trying to survive the best we can. I knocked and knocked on doors to find some work, but got nowhere. It is very difficult, “said Dube, 31.
South Africa has introduced relief programs, but delivery is volatile. Dube received nothing, blaming “corruption”.
“People who have debts get them collected. Food is expensive, ‘he said. “People are suffering a lot.”