COVID-19 kills 500 Africans says WHO – and why it could be a lot worse than we know.

By Chris Bishop

As the COVID-19 spreads across Africa there have been 10,000 cases – with South Africa suffering the most – killing 500 people with a 9.4 per cent recovery rate.

The figures are likely to be even higher, in reality, as the World Health Organization admits that it is struggling to test outside African capitals because of a lack of resources, equipment and planes.

“We now have 44 African countries in the WHO region, sub-Saharan Africa, including Algeria, who are testing. In most of these countries there is urgent need to move testing beyond capital cities. We are also facing very much challenge of procurement and supply of equipment,” says Matshidiso Meoti, the director for Africa for the WHO.

“There is a shortage on a global level this is a huge concern for WHO as we work to procure testing kits. Some philanthropists are procuring and providing. There is availability on international markets and transportation but there is a lack of availability of flight in countries. We are working on how can kits can be moved and it is one of the most acute issues we are working on at this time.”

When asked about certain countries in different continents restricting the export of COVID-19 testing and protective equipment Michel Yao, a WHO representative to the Central African Republic, said: “ We are in talks with manufacturers, we need solidarity with countries , who can produce, to have a global approach in this outbreak The outbreak needs to be addressed everywhere at one time if we continue to have outbreaks in Africa, it will continue to affect everyone else.”

A lack of mobility was also causing problems for Africa’s migrants. The lockdown in many countries had seen people stranded up at borders, from Djibouti to the border between Burundi and Tanzania, according to Nairobi-based Mohammeed Abdiker a regional director for the International Organization for Migration. He also warned governments to be careful with refugees.

“Governments should think hard about deporting refugees at this time. If we look at cross border movements, just by deporting two or three thousand people across a border we are increasing the risk of pandemic,”

On the movement front, Ethiopian Airlines told CNBC Africa that, despite losing $550 million dollars through the pandemic, it was prepared to fly equipment to every country in Africa. The airline said billionaire philanthropist Jack Ma had cooperated with the government of Ethiopia to supply equipment for mercy flights across Africa.

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