Brazzaville, 7 May 2020 – Eighty-three thousand to 190 000 people in Africa could die of COVID-19 and 29 million to 44 million could get infected in the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail, a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa finds. The research, which is based on prediction modelling, looks at 47 countries in the WHO African Region with a total population of one billion.
The new estimates are based on modifying the risk of transmission and disease severity by variables specific to each country in order to adjust for the unique nature of the region. The model predicts the observed slower rate of transmission, lower age of people with severe disease, and lowers mortality rates compared to what is seen in the most affected countries in the rest of the world.
This is largely driven by social and environmental factors slowing the transmission, and a younger population that has benefitted from the control of communicable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis to reduce possible vulnerabilities.
The lower rate of transmission, however, suggests a more prolonged outbreak over a few years, according to the study which also revealed that smaller African countries alongside Algeria, South Africa, and Cameroon were at high risk if containment measures are not prioritized.
Reinforcing emergency response against COVID-19 in Africa
In an expanded pool of expertise, the World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting several African countries to coordinate the work of external emergency medical teams deployed to support the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) are groups of health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, and paramedics that provide direct clinical care in the wake of disasters, outbreaks or other emergencies in support of the local health system. They work in line with classifications and minimum standards set by WHO and come trained and self-sufficient so as to not burden the national health system of wherever they are working. Member states are the sole decision-maker on whether to accept or reject an EMT.
So far, United Kingdom EMTs have been working in South Africa, Ghana, and Zambia. Chinese teams have been working in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Despite not being classified as a formal EMT, the teams from Cuba (Cuban Medicale Brigade) are deployed in South Africa and Togo. The EMT from China and the United Kingdom are in the pipeline to six more countries in Africa.