Dr. Tedros Adhanom, director general of the World Health Organization, said in a media briefing on Africa Day, March 25, that the continent’s COVID-19 numbers may not “paint the full picture” regarding the public health impact of the pandemic. He said Africa had reported only 1.5 percent of the world’s total tally of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of global deaths attributed to the virus, but these numbers could increase as testing capacity improves.
Access to critical medicines such as vaccines and anti-HIV drugs has declined
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only 1.8 million Africans have been tested, only just above 0.1 percent of the continent’s total population. Part of this can be attributed to the soaring costs of materials needed to conduct tests, with richer nations edging Africa out on the global market. The WHO reported on May 22 that Africa had passed the 100,000 threshold for confirmed cases, and that the virus had spread to every country on the continent.
A WHO model has projected that COVID-19 could infect a quarter of a billion Africans and kill 150,000 people within a year.
Still, these numbers look good in comparison with the statistics from other continents, but COVID-19 in and of itself isn’t the only threat to Africa. Due to pressures from the pandemic, access to critical medicines such as vaccines and anti-HIV drugs has declined, along with elective surgeries. What’s more, the drop in wildlife tourism, which provides funding for conservation efforts, has meant that poaching has escalated, further threatening endangered wildlife in Africa.