How COVID-19 exposed gaping holes in health systems in Nigeria, other African countries - Report

How COVID-19 exposed gaping holes in health systems in Nigeria, other African countries - Report

- There have been various forecasts that Africa may be the next epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic

- UNECA said the continent may have up to 123 million cases in 2020 with 300,000 deaths

- A survey by Reuters exposed the inefficiency of the health systems in Africa that could worsen the coronavirus pandemic

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Africa could become the next epicentre of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) also warned that even with intense social distancing, Africa which has 1.3 billion people could have nearly 123 million cases this year. UNECA also said 300,000 people could die of the disease.

In a special survey, Reuters reports how COVID-19 has exposed the health systems on the African continent and while the predictions may come to pass of adequate measures are not put in place on time.

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How COVID-19 exposed gaping holes in health systems in Nigeria, other African countries - Report

A health expert taking samples from a suspected COVID-19 patient for testing. Photo credit: NCDC
Source: Twitter

Africa has recorded over 51,000 cases of COVID-19 while there is a continuous spike in the number of cases confirmed on a daily basis.

1. Inadequate health facilities: IC beds, ventilators

Across the whole of Africa, there is less than one intensive care bed per 100,000 people, according to Reuters.

The news media said Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt only have 1,920 intensive care beds between them for more than 400 million people.

There is also a ventilator gap as some African countries such as Guinea Bissau do not have any ventilator at all.

South Africa has 3,200 ventilators but will need 5,362. Morocco has 1,640 ventilators will need 2,611. Ethiopia has 557 as against 9,375 ventilators it will need. Nigeria has 500 ventilators but will need 20,325, and so on.

The survey states that Africa could need at least 111,000 more intensive care beds and ventilators; more than 10 times the number it has at present.

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2. Shortage of personnel

Most of the African countries also have severe shortages of medical personnel. The survey states that health experts that can handle the equipment for managing COVID-19 patients are in short supply in Africa.

3. Low testing

According to Reuters, South Africa and Ghana account for 46% of all tests carried out in Africa so far.

South Africa alone accounts for 30% of Africa’s tests, although it has less than 5% of the population.

Nigeria, which has 15% of the population, has carried out just 2% of testing.

With the low levels of testing, it is impossible to know the true scale of infection in Africa yet.

So far, 868,227 COVID-19 tests have been carried out, meaning that around 685 tests have been carried out per million people.

The continent is also grappling with the global shortage of testing materials.

4. Electricity problem

Ventilators need electricity but countries like Nigeria South Sudan and Zimbabwe have extremely unreliable electricity.

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Meanwhile, reports have emerged that the Republic of Madagascar has sent its COVID-19 herbal remedy to Nigeria and some other African countries.

The herbal medicine known as COVID Organics (COV) is reported to be effective against COVID-19.

The Nation newspaper reports that Nigeria’s consignment has been sent to Equatorial Guinea from where it will be airlifted to Abuja.

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