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Health scholars predict ‘needless’ COVID-19 deaths in Africa

A patient who is suspected of suffering from COVID-19 coronavirus undergoes testing at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital isolation centre on May 10, 2020. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has confirmed 3,912 infections and 117 deaths from the novel coronavirus. Audu MARTE / AFP

• Nigeria fourth worst hit by virus on continent
• WHO celebrates 40 years of smallpox eradication

Global health scholars have raised the alarm about what they termed ‘foreseeable needless loss of lives’ in sub-Saharan Africa on account of “slow and inadequate access to supplies” to control the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent.

They likened the unfolding development to what obtained during the outbreak of the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) where life-saving diagnostics and treatments for the ailment came much longer after other continents had taken supplies.

The worry was expressed in an article published yesterday in the journal, The Lancet.

Indeed, cases of the novel coronavirus have doubled in the last two weeks on the continent with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (AFRICA CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) tracking exponential growth in some countries, thus the concern that the second largest continent in the world might be the next epicentre of the ailment.

The team comprises an assistant professor in the Department of International Health at Georgetown University Medical Centre, Washington DC, United States, Dr. Matthew M. Kavanagh; Ngozi A. Erondu of Chatham House, Nigeria; a virologist, and chairman of the Expert Review Committee on COVID-19 established last week by the Federal Ministry of Health, Prof. Oyewale Tomori; Victor J. Dzau of the United States National Academy of Medicine; Emelda A. Okiro of KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya, and Allan Maleche of Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS, Kenya.

It also includes Ifeyinwa C. Aniebo of Health Strategy and Delivery Foundation, Nigeria; Umunya Rugege of Section 27, South Africa; Charles B Holmes of Georgetown’s School of Medicine, and Lawrence O. Gostin of O’Neill Institute.

Housed at Georgetown University Law Centere in Washington DC, the O’Neill Institute reflects the importance of public and private law in health policy analysis.

Meanwhile, the latest WHO’s COVID-19 Situation Report–110 noted that Africa remains the continent with the lowest number of cases and deaths arising from the virus, posting 40,544 incidents and 1,322 fatalities while Europe is the worst hit, recording 1,682,338 occurrences and 154,233 casualties.

In Africa, Nigeria is ranked fourth among nations with the disease’s highest burden, coming behind South Africa, Algeria and Ghana.

Besides, the global agency on May 8, 2020, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox.

Consequently, a commemorative postal stamp, developed by the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) in collaboration with WHO, was unveiled to mark the feat.

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