Mukasa Sirajeh Katantazi
When the first C19 case in Africa was reported- an Italian national in Algeria, most pundits painted a gloomy picture of what lied ahead. With creaking health systems and a demoralized workforce in most African states the worst was feared.
Probably this outlook was justified since other countries – France, Spain, Italy, USA – with more advanced healthcare systems had been hit hard.
Melinda Gates, speaking to CNN about the virus, infamously stated that the pandemic “will make Africa have dead bodies lying on the streets”.
When one watches that interview Melinda sounds genuinely concerned and goes on to assert that“the only reason why the reported cases of the coronavirus disease in Africa is low now is most likely because there has not been wide testing of people. The disease is going to bite hard on the continent.”
These statements drew ire and consternation from many Africans some calling her a witch (used figuratively to mean someone who wishes you bad luck), yet the Bill & Melinda Foundation of which Melinda is co-chair announced an additional $150 million of grant expansion of its funding for the global response to C19 to ensure equitable access to diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.
Reports from USA had shown that African Americans where succumbing more to the virus than their white counterparts.
The trend was confirmed as the UK reported more black people dying than any other racial demographic. This added to the anxiety as poverty and locusts’ invasions added up for the perfect storm.
Yet by the time of writing this, the total number of confirmed cases in Africa was 27,917 with both Comoros and Lesotho reporting zero cases.
There have been 1,360 deaths and 8,939 recoveries out of a population of nearly 1.3 billion inhabitants. This is a remarkably small number and continues to puzzle health experts.
In contrast the USA, being the worst hit country in the world, had 906,944 confirmed cases with 52,060 deaths out of a population of roughly 331 million people.
Is there under-reporting going on?
Are Africa’s health systems unable to detect cases?
Is it the purported use of herbs and other immune system boosters readily available in Africa? or as being shared on social media, do Africans have some sort of genetic make- up that resists the virus?
Is it the lifestyle of Africans who spend abundant time in sunlight? (new findings show that the virus’ half-life is reduced to under 2 minutes when exposed to UV rays)?
There is no concrete scientific research to support or disprove these assumptions but what remains is that African has defied all odds and the scripts will have to be torn and new ones written.
Apparently despite the official government lockdowns (Tanzania being the exception), life in the country sides has continued uninterrupted with people freely mixing at village markets and discarding all forms of caution especially when fighting for food rations dished out by their respective governments and/or politicians or burying their loved ones.
This despite near total absence of PPEs.
All we can do is pray that Africa’s young population (reports suggest young people are more resilient) help stem the spread of disease.
Stay home stay safe.