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Coronavirus: UN group predicts 300,000 deaths in Africa due to scourge

The coronavirus pandemic could kill 300,000 people in Africa this year; even with assertive government measures to limit social interactions, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Overcrowded slums with no access to water coupled with fragile health-care systems make the continent especially vulnerable to the disease; the Addis Ababa-based body said in a report on Friday, April 17.

Countries across the continent have implemented measures from nationwide lockdowns; in which people are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, to suspending schools, prohibiting public gatherings and halting all travel.

The report presents four scenarios and shows that zero interventions – a worst-case scenario – would lead to the death of as many as 3.3 million people in a continent with a population of 1.3 billion.

“How African countries respond to the coronavirus crisis in the coming weeks will affect the trajectory of national epidemics across the continent,” it said.

The report further said 56 percent of Africa urban population is concentrated in slums or informal dwellings and only 34 percent of African households have access to basic handwashing facilities.

“The economic costs of the Pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of the COVID-19. Across the continent; all economies are suffering from the sudden shock to the economies. The physical distancing needed to manage the pandemic is suffocating and drowning economic activity,” it said.

UNECA, however, called on international communities to help African countries.

“That is why we call on the international community to support by injecting more liquidity into our economies.

“We must build back better; by ensuring that we are climate-conscious in rebuilding and by leveraging the digital economy.”

The virus has killed 962 people in Africa so far, compared with 145,603 deaths worldwide.

However, the pace of contagion has picked up with the number of cases more than doubling to 18,333 in two weeks; according to data from the Africa centres for disease control and prevention.

Africa needs an initial $100 billion to beef up its health-care system and social-safety net; and another $100 billion in emergency economic stimulus, UNECA said.

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