With about 101,000 infected and more than 3,200 dead in 53 of the 55 countries, Africa is one of the continents least affected by the new coronavirus pandemic, despite the most catastrophic predictions that anticipated the disease would spread quickly. Social restrictions and isolation, in addition to the peculiar way of disseminating information about the disease, however, follow a specific guide. Another characteristic of the spread of coronavirus on the continent is the high concentration of cases: six countries are home to more than half of those infected.
With informal labor rates exceeding 90% in some countries, most African governments have not opted for a rigid lockdown, with some exceptions, such as South Africa. In its place, many leaders have been implementing curfews and security measures. prevention followed to the letter, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, until now the least affected region.
– Some capitals have adopted the lockdown, in countries like Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, but most African countries would not be able to make a total confinement in their territories, because many governments cannot guarantee emergency aid or other types of aid. for informal ones. For this reason, countries like Kenya, Uganda and Cameroon have adopted a strict curfew, combined with restrictive measures and mandatory use of masks. In small local businesses, social leaders help with hygiene measures, with improvised sinks, for example – explains Alexandre dos Santos, professor of African History at the Institute of International Relations at PUC-Rio.
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In addition, most governments have been successful in adopting restrictive measures and disseminating information on prevention with the help of radio and TV programs, even used to teach classes, with most schools closed, he says. The specialist.
– The radio is still the vehicle with the most capillarity in the interior of the continent.
In Angola and Mozambique, for example, with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, governments and city halls have created skits to be broadcast on radio stations in the interior, in five local languages, to combat the spread of fake news. In addition, there is a commitment by artists across the continent to informative music: in Uganda, the famous politician and singer Bobi Wine composed a song, as well as the president of Liberia, former player George Weah, who has also been recording clips warning about the disease. Even Unicef asked the singer Angelique Kidjo to re-record a version of Pata Pata, the most famous song in Africa immortalized by Miriam Makeba, with information about the disease.
Although the pandemic affects almost all 55 countries and territories in Africa, only six of them – South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Ghana – are home to half of those infected and recorded more than two thirds of deaths associated with the disease. Ahead in number of infected are two of the continent’s richest countries, South Africa, with more than 19 thousand cases and about 360 deaths; followed by Egypt, with 15 thousand cases and 700 dead. Nigeria, the continent’s highest GDP country, is in fifth place, with almost seven thousand cases and more than 200 deaths.
– This concentration occurs essentially in the richest countries and in those that receive more tourists and where there is a greater circulation of people, that is, in those most affected by globalization – explains Augusto Paulo Silva, coordinator for Africa at the Center for International Relations in Health of Fiocruz (Cris).
In addition, the lower life expectancy of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa, where only 3% of the population is over 65 and 43% are under 15, is another factor that explains the lower incidence of the disease in that region.
– What until then seemed to be only speculation, the low life expectancy of the population, especially in relation to Europe, has been gaining strength as one of the main causes to explain the lower incidence of the pandemic in the continent, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, with some exceptions – says Augusto Paulo Silva.
The experience of containing other epidemics and the rapid response of governments were crucial to the lowest number of cases across the continent, which accounts for only 1.6% of the world’s total infected, even though it houses 17% of the planet’s population – the Africa is the second most populous continent in the world, with 1.3 billion inhabitants.
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But even if the number of deaths is lower in relation to other regions of the world, such as America and Europe, continents most affected so far, Paulo Augusto warns of other impacts of the pandemic on the continent, such as food insecurity. Furthermore, according to the WHO, the low transmission rate suggests a “longer and more prolonged epidemic for several years”.
– The agricultural chain is being strongly affected by the containment measures that were taken during the pandemic – explains the expert of Cris. – Another side effect is the decrease in remittances from Africans who do not live on the continent, who have lost their source of income in the countries where they lived, and were an important source of income for many poor families.
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In South Africa, scientists and statisticians hired by the Ministry of Health to model the spread of the disease were also concerned:
– We have some significant concerns that, due to the focus on Covid-19, this could compromise other areas, such as HIV and tuberculosis – said expert Harry Moultrie, who warned that the country could have between 35 thousand and 50 thousand deaths caused by the virus until November.
Experts also warn of underreporting in some countries, especially new outbreaks. The city of Kano, Nigeria, for example, has been experiencing an uncontrolled outbreak of the disease, according to doctors and public health experts. Officially, however, fewer than 100 cases have been reported. The same may be happening in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, where officials warn that burials have tripled.