Introduce to The COVID 19 Death Rate In Ghana Is Lower
Despite there being over 100,000 cases of coronavirus across all African countries, the passage of the virus through the continent remains somewhat low-key. As speculated by Ghana Talks Radio, and other outlets, high numbers of deaths were expected across Africa and for several reasons:
- Fragile health-care systems
- Lack of access to preventive measures
- Undue barriers to testing opportunities
- Vulnerable populations
Despite these points, and against predictions, the WHO have said that Africa is the least affected region, with just 1.5% of COVID-19 cases that have been reported globally, and 0.1% of fatalities globally.
Direct comparisons will always be inaccurate, but mortality rates have been lower when compared with outbreaks of a similar size elsewhere in the world. Several theories have been put forward to try and explain this, including:
- Ambient temperature differences
- The comparatively young population in Africa
- Lower obesity rates on the continent
- Experience of infectious disease and their outbreaks
Whatever the cause, the situation on the continent is very diverse and progress varies a large amount from country to country.
Back in February, while many other nations around the world were dismissing the emerging viral outbreak, Ghana FM Stations (among others) were reporting that the African Union had acted quickly and begun working with the WHO almost immediately.
COVID-19 testing capability had been greatly increased by the end of February, thanks to the work done by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Individual African countries also acted quickly, enforcing lockdown measures and border closures.
Several countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Kenya (and others) initiated emergency measures to help ensure distribution of goods, while Nigeria also providing financial support to the countries most vulnerable. Other countries (which include Malawi and Ghana) meanwhile opted for partial or no lockdown at all, attempting to balance the real threat of food shortages, social unrest and economic collapse.
It is still too early to completely understand the implications of these different strategies, but Tanzania has been a cause for concern – or more accurately, their response has – and with good reason:
- Case numbers not being released
- President John Magufuli endorsing unproven herbal remedies
There is of course no room for complacency with a global outbreak. If containment measures fail, the medical capacity that exists in Africa will be quickly overwhelmed. That being said, efforts that are being concentrated on the pandemic threaten gains made elsewhere.
For an example of this, as a direct result of the pandemic, somewhere in the region of 80 million children worldwide, under the age of 1 year, could be at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. This is because vaccination efforts to combat coronavirus have greatly disrupted routine immunisations – worldwide.
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Coronavirus must not be the sole focus, we cannot allow it to detract from the continued action that is needed in other areas of health. Interrupted vaccination campaigns in the DRC, for example, may have cost the country more lives than Ebola. Repeating this situation across the continent must be avoided.
Although the regional response has been strong, the after-effects of the pandemic may hinder Africa’s ability to keep deaths to a minimum while also avoiding economic disruption.
A lot of African nations have responded with localised solutions, such as the setting up of local supplies of masks in Ghana (as reported in many Ghana news outlets). Other measures such as the suspension of tariffs on health-care products, the creation of supply corridors and the easing of restrictions on food exports (as recommended by the United Nations) have to be put into place, across Africa, as quickly as possible.
The World Bank has estimated that upwards of 60 million people are going to be pushed into extreme hardship and poverty before the end of the year. The United Nations Secretary-General (António Guterres) has called for a global response package that includes a debt standstill and restructuring that would support Africa’s economic resilience.
It is not over yet
Africa should not be celebrating its comparatively low death rate, there is still great potential for disaster on the continent. This pandemic enforces global power structures and the whole world has a role to play in enabling and supporting a safe, effective response to the virus.
As much as Africa faces unique challenges and difficulties, there are unique strengths here too. There have been many successes on a national level recorded.
Future action should be Africa-led, as the continent with an unquestionable and unique experience with viral and disease outbreaks and the rest of the world should be watching to see what can be learned.