Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus this year. This is even under the best-case scenario; according to a new report released Friday that cites modeling from Imperial College London.
The worst-case scenario
Under the worst-case scenario with no interventions against the virus; Africa could see 3.3 million deaths and 1.2 billion infections, the report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa said.
The best-case scenario
Even with “intense social distancing.” under the best-case scenario the continent could see more than 122 million infections, the report said.
Any of the scenarios would overwhelm Africa´s largely fragile and underfunded health systems, experts have warned. Under the best-case scenario; $44bn would be needed for testing, personal protective equipment, and treatment, the report said, citing UNECA estimates. The worst-case scenario would cost $446bn.
In a joint statement; the World Bank and International Monetary Fund said on Friday they had each contributed to the $57bn mobilized by official creditors to support healthcare and economic recovery on the world’s poorest continent, while $13bn came from private funds.
“This is an important start, but the continent needs an estimated $114bn in 2020 in its fight against COVID-19, leaving a financing gap of around $44bn,” the statement said.
The Washington-based institutions finished up their spring meetings this week, rolling out a slate of financing programs directed at combating the pandemic, which World Bank President David Malpass said could undo development in poor countries.
Africa is seen as particularly vulnerable to the disaster, which the IMF has dubbed “The Great Lockdown” as it warns of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Experts fear the continent’s notoriously weak health systems may not be able to stop the spread of COVID-19 while the combined effects of a slump in demand for minerals and tourism together with lockdowns to stem the contagion could wallop economies.
Devastating impact on Africa
“This pandemic has already had a devastating impact on Africa and its effects will deepen as the rate of infection rises,” South African president and African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa said in the statement.
“It is a setback for the progress we have made to eradicate poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment.”
The continent as of Friday had more than 18,000 confirmed virus cases, but experts have said Africa is weeks behind Europe in the pandemic and the rate of increase has looked alarmingly similar.
The new report is the most detailed public projection yet for coronavirus infections and deaths in Africa, where more than 1.3 billion people are bracing for the pandemic.
Poverty, crowded urban conditions and widespread health problems make Africa “particularly susceptible” to the virus, the UN report said. “Of all the continents Africa has the highest prevalence of certain underlying conditions, like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.”
On Thursday, a World Health Organization official said one projection over the next six months shows more than 10 million severe cases of the virus.
“But these are still to be fine-tuned,” said Michel Yao, the WHO’s emergency operations manager in Africa. He also added that public health measures could have an impact in limiting cases. He did not give the source of the projection.
The new report also warns of severe economic pain across Africa amid the pandemic; with growth contracting 2.6% in the worst-case scenario and an estimated 27 million people pushed into extreme poverty. The World Bank has said sub-Saharan Africa could fall into its first recession in a quarter-century.
“Collapsed businesses may never recover,” the new report said. “Without a rapid response, governments risk losing control and facing unrest.”
A moratorium on all African debt payments
Nearly 20 European and African leaders called for an immediate moratorium on all African debt payments, public and private. This is until the pandemic is over, as well as at least $100bn in immediate financial help so countries can focus on fighting the virus.
The UN report said the continent has no fiscal space to deal with shocks from the pandemic. It also recommended a “complete temporary debt standstill for two years for all African countries, low and middle income included.”
Africa suffered in the global competition for badly needed medical equipment but in recent days created a continental platform. So its 54 countries can team up to bulk-buy items at more reasonable prices.
One major shipment of equipment, including more than 400 ventilators, arrived this week for sharing among all 54 countries.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and those with other health problems, it can cause pneumonia and death.