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Many Deaths Threaten Underdeveloped Regions If They Stay That Way

April 20, 2020 (EIRNS)—Headlines last week were trumpeting that Africa COVID-19 deaths “could reach 300,000 people.” The source of that figure is a report, “COVID-19 in Africa: Protecting Lives and Economies,” produced by the UN’s Economic Commission on Africa, and widely leaked prior to the report’s official release on April 17. The realistic death figure discussed in the report is 3.3 million; the figure of 300,000 deaths was only the lowest of four given in the report—the one assuming the best of all mitigating circumstances—with the highest figure greater by a factor of ten: 3.3 million dead.

With the understanding that all of these figures in the report come from computer-projected models produced by the Imperial College of London, the “best case” scenario assumed: “intense” social distancing, including quarantine; personal protection equipment (PPE), including masks and protective gear for first responders; and extensive testing/contact tracing. The “worst case” scenario, on the other hand, assumed “no intervention,” with two cases in between.

To achieve the “best case” scenario, the report observes, would require $44 billion “for testing, personal protective equipment, and to treat all those requiring hospitalization and intensive care.” Needless to say, this is almost an impossibility for Africa: Even if the money and material were to materialize, the simplest of things—for example, hand sanitation—is almost impossible for lack of potable water. On the more complex issue of acute medical care, even in the country best-equipped in this regard, South Africa, the acute and ICU beds in hospitals just aren’t there. As the report states: “If COVID-19 were left to spread unmitigated, the COVID-19 medical supply gap across Africa would reach approximately $446 billion [worst case scenario], and Africa would be completely unable to afford to treat even a fraction of all those in need.”

The harsh reality is, that even the simplest of mitigating efforts—government lockdowns—are proving more difficult to enforce, as populations become more desperate for food, being amplified by an inherent distrust of police authority. Reported cases of violent protests are increasing, especially in larger cities of South Africa and Nigeria, with reports of protests and looting having taken place even in rural regions.

The BBC reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) says the virus appears to be spreading away from African capitals toward rural areas. Somalia’s Health Ministry, whose officials were quoted in the Washington Post April 20, has zero ventilators. The Central African Republic has 3; South Sudan, 4; Liberia, 5; Nigeria, fewer than 100. Abdirizak Yusuf of the Somali Health Ministry said: “I think there can be even a million cases that we’re missing in Somalia. My colleagues are even testing positive. Our ministry people are testing positive. Most of the people we are testing are testing positive.”

Even in areas called “wealthy,” as South China Morning Post wrote yesterday:

“Poorer groups generally suffer more. That is even the case in rich, self-regarding Singapore. Its much-vaunted public housing program excludes the non-resident 29% of the population and 37% of the workforce, who are mostly either domestic helpers or workers living in barrack block dormitories with bunk beds and multi-user toilet facilities. Unsurprisingly, they have become the center of COVID-19 outbreaks.”

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