Africa Media Review for April 13, 2020

Innovations Needed to Prevent COVID-19 from Catching Fire in Africa’s Cities
With urban population densities and poverty rates among the world’s highest, innovative measures will be needed to prevent African cities from becoming hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic. … Over half of urban Africans–more than 200 million people–live in informal neighborhoods where such vulnerable conditions persist and are magnified by limited access to water and sanitation. In countries like South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Chad, nearly 9 out of 10 urban residents live in informal settlements. Some of the largest of these settlements number several hundred thousand people, including Kibera in Nairobi, Manshiyat Nasser in Cairo, and Khayelitsha in Cape Town. … Problems and proximities like these not only compound the spread of COVID-19 but also amplify the challenge of isolating at home. Africa’s responses, accordingly, will need to be carefully tailored to the continent’s unique urban landscapes. In assessing COVID-19-related risks in Africa‘s urban areas, two defining features are particularly relevant: urban density and total urban population. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Congo Was Close to Defeating Ebola. Then One More Case Emerged.
Health workers in lime-green scrubs and white gumboots danced, ululated and drummed on buckets in celebration as the woman they hoped would be the last patient treated for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo was released from a treatment center there in early March. Their fight to conquer the Ebola epidemic, which had seemed nearly hopeless only one year ago, appeared to be almost over. If the country could just make it to Sunday – the equivalent of two incubation periods – without any more cases emerging, then the world’s second-worst Ebola outbreak in history would officially be declared to have ended. … But the celebrations are now on hold. On Friday, the World Health Organization announced that a new case of Ebola had been confirmed in Beni, just as health workers had already pivoted to respond to the arrival of the coronavirus in Congo. For now, it’s only one new case. But the setback demonstrates just how hard it is to eradicate a virus. Now, while medical workers push to stop any further resurgence of Ebola, they must also combat a flare-up of the coronavirus in a country that has been wracked for years with instability and violence. The New York Times

African Diplomats Protest Alleged Racism and Inhumane Treatment of Migrants in China
African governments are protesting against the inhumane treatment of Africans in China who have been evicted from their homes, barred from restaurants and forced to sleep in the streets under Chinese anti-virus measures. The incidents, documented in videos and eyewitness accounts that circulated widely this weekend, have been condemned by some African diplomats as evidence of “racial discrimination” and “unfair” treatment. The video clips showed a number of evicted Africans sleeping under a bridge in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, an African shoved against a wall by a policeman, another African locked into his home and told to call the government if he wants water, and a fast-food restaurant with a laminated notice reading: “Black people are not allowed to enter.” … The governments of several countries – including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda – summoned Chinese ambassadors to receive formal protests about the incidents, sometimes asking the ambassadors to watch videos of the incidents. The governments, along with the African Union, expressed their “extreme concern” at the alleged mistreatment of Africans in China. The Globe and Mail

Why Africa’s Coronavirus Outbreak Appears Slower than Anticipated
When Africa’s first case of coronavirus was detected in Egypt in February, the rest of the continent prepared for the brunt of a pandemic that has engulfed Europe and spread to the United States, infecting more than 1.6 million worldwide. Health experts warned of the devastation the deadly virus could cause in Africa, where most hospitals are desperately short of equipment and trained staff. Coronavirus has since spread to 52 African countries, but despite a steady rise in the number of confirmed cases, the continent continues to lag behind the global curve for infections and deaths. … Experts, however, warn that the tide is rising. “During the last four days we can see that the numbers have already doubled,” said Michel Yao, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa’s emergency response programme manager. “If the trend continues… some countries may face a huge peak very soon,” Yao said. WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti echoed the concern, adding that the spread of Covid-19 outside major cities opened “a new front in our fight against this virus.” Possibly the greatest question mark in analyses of coronavirus in Africa, compounded by a global lack of testing capacity. … Inability to test for the virus has forced several countries to work with vague and sometimes misleading estimates. AFP

Screening Key to Halting ‘Runaway Train’ of Africa Infection
When vans equipped with loudspeakers arrived in the South African mining town of Thlabane to urge residents to get screened for the coronavirus, restaurant worker Thembelihle didn’t hesitate to join the queue. “We’re very afraid from what we are seeing on TV,” the 34-year-old said after she completed her screening. “The numbers are going up.” South Africa this month became the first African country to roll out a nationwide screening and testing program to determine whether the disease has taken a foothold outside the affluent areas where it was first detected. Despite a stringent lockdown that appears to have brought the rate of infections under control, the government has reason to be concerned. In blue-collar towns like Thlabane, which is on the outskirts of Rustenburg, there’s limited space to practice social distancing, and the virus could spread far faster than it has in the well-heeled suburbs of Johannesburg and Cape Town. “We don’t want to follow, we want to lead,” said Karmani Chetty, chief executive officer of the National Health Laboratory Services. Bloomberg

Ethiopia’s Capital Launches Door-to-Door COVID-19 Screening
Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa is due to begin a door-to-door mass Covid-19 screening across the city, Addis Ababa city administration has announced. City deputy Mayor, Takele Uma, on Saturday told local journalists that the mass screening and testing programme will be started Monday (April 13) first in districts which are identified as potentially most vulnerable to the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus. The aggressive city-wide screening measure intends to identify Covid-19 infected patients and thereby to arrest a potential virus spread within communities. He said, the mass screening will eventually be carried out in all 117 districts, locally known as woredas, of the city, which is home to an estimated 7 million inhabitants. According to the Mayor, the door-to-door mass Covid-19 screening will be conducted by more than 1,200 retired health professionals, who responded to government’s call on the retired to join the national fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Daily Nation

Nigeria’s Fight against Coronavirus Goes Door-to-Door in Lagos
Local authorities in Nigeria on Friday announced the start of a door-to-door checks on residents of the megacity Lagos to identify cases of coronavirus. Health workers will be visiting homes and healthcare facilities in order to carry out an electronic survey enquiring about cough, cold and fever, some of the telltale signs of Covid-19. “This is in a bid to intensify our search for possible cases of Covid-19 in different communities across the state,” said Lagos State Commissioner for Health Akin Abayomi. Abayomi urged Lagosians to give healthcare workers “maximum support” by providing accurate information that would help contain the pandemic. The state commissioner said healthcare workers would be identified by their official “Covid-19 Outbreak Response” tags and letter from the local government authorities. Lagos State has confirmed a total of 158 cases of Covid-19 with three dead, according to statistics from the local authorities on Thursday evening. Nigeria’s health ministry said the country has confirmed a total of 288 cases of coronavirus resulting in seven dead, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. RFI

Libyan Hospital Treating Coronavirus Patients Attacked
Armed fighters loyal to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar have attacked medical warehouses belonging to a hospital in the capital Tripoli that is treating coronavirus patients, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has said. The attack targeted depots of the Al-Khadra Hospital in al-Swani in the capital, Tripoli, with Grad missiles, according to a statement by the GNA. Last week, the UN condemned heavy shelling of the hospital in which at least three civilians were wounded, calling it a “clear violation of international law.” The North African country has so far reported 25 cases of the coronavirus and one death. … Libya has enforced a nationwide curfew from 2pm to 7am, and prohibited intercity travel to curb the spread of the virus. … Last month, Human Rights Watch said Libya’s healthcare system was “battered by intermittent armed conflicts and political divisions since 2011,” warning that it will be unable to cope with large numbers of patients if infections spread. Al Jazeera

Coronavirus: Sudan Faces Three-Week Lockdown
The Sudanese government is planning to declare three weeks of lockdown in Sudan as the number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases reaches 19. On Saturday, the Sudanese Ministry of Health reported new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Sudan, this bring the total to date to 19, up from 15 cases on Thursday. In a press statement on Thursday, Minister of Health Akram El Tom said that they recommend a total lockdown for three weeks and support for the most vulnerable people in the country as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of the pandemic. “People have three days to prepare for the total close down in the country,” he said. On April 10, Radio Dabanga reported that the Sudanese Ministry of Health reported a new COVID-19 patient. Nearly 240 suspected coronavirus cases are in quarantine in Sudan’s isolation centres. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan said in its latest Situation Report on Thursday that UN partners in the country updated the Corona Virus – Covid-19 Country Preparedness and Response Plan created to support the government of Sudan and national preparedness for the spread of the coronavirus. Radio Dabanga

What’s behind South Sudan’s COVID-19 Inspired UN-backlash
South Sudan reported its first four cases of coronavirus this week – all UN staff members – and the news quickly triggered a xenophobic backlash that has amped up tensions and restricted the movement of aid agencies. The first case was reported on Sunday. The patient had been in the country for five weeks before the onset of symptoms, which would have been an unusually long incubation period if they had been infected outside South Sudan. Nevertheless, the news triggered headlines and social media posts blaming the UN for bringing COVID-19 to South Sudan. One news splash in a leading newspaper simply said “Foreigner,” and vitriolic Facebook messages threatened violent retaliation. Government soldiers surrounded bases of the UN peacekeeping mission in Juba and Malakal, and some humanitarian hubs. The soldiers reportedly told displaced people in Malakal that they could not leave as they had been infected by coronavirus. In response, the UN suspended all but essential movement of staff, and some other aid agencies followed suit. The New Humanitarian

Pandemic Hits Aid Work in Sub-Saharan Africa
Desperately needed aid for millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa is under threat as the deadly coronavirus pandemic sweeps a continent already facing a volley of crises. In some cases social distancing measures and border closures are preventing workers from distributing aid. In others, funding is under threat as agencies scramble to pool resources to fight the fast-ballooning Covid-19 outbreak on the continent. Cameroon’s polio vaccination campaign has been suspended, while in Chad a measles vaccination programme has been postponed. In Niger and Burkina Faso, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by jihadist violence, flights bringing in humanitarian aid have been put on hold. In the Central African Republic, where most of the territory is under the sway of armed groups, supplies of chlorine, needed to provide safe drinking water, are running low. “Some programmes have slowed down or been temporarily suspended, but most humanitarian operations are continuing,” said Julie Belanger, head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for West and Central Africa. AFP

Interpol in New Strategy to Fight Terrorists in East Africa
Movement of terrorists in the region will now be monitored remotely, Interpol regional bureau has said. The change in tack has been linked to increased travel restrictions by governments to contain Covid-19. “Due to travel restrictions linked to Covid-19, the Interpol staff had to leave the operational deployment stations earlier than scheduled and provide support remotely,” Gideon Kimilu, head of the East African bureau said. The operation is part of Interpol’s annual activities aimed at stopping terrorists and criminals in the region. This is done in partnership with participating member countries. This year, four countries-Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda participated in an operation code named Simba II that was co-ordinated by the Interpol general secretariat in partnership with the regional bureau for East Africa in Nairobi between March 15 and 22. The East African

Ethiopia, Sudan Agree to Coordinate Border Security Efforts
Sudan and Ethiopia Friday agreed to coordinate border control and monitoring operations to prevent cross border crimes and attacks. On Friday, General Adem Mohamed the Ethiopian army Chief of the General Staff arrived in Khartoum leading a senior military delegation for talks with the head of the Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the prime minister Abdallah Hamdok. The meetings come after security tensions on the border between the two countries, which prompted al-Burhan to visit the eastern border area of Doka, and to declare the army’s readiness to protect the Sudanese territory. On Friday evening, the Ministry of Defence in Khartoum hosted a session of military talks between the visiting delegation and a Sudanese delegation headed by First Lieutenant General Mohamed Osman al-Hussein, chief of staff. The meeting dealt with strengthening bilateral coordination between the two countries to control the joint borders. The two sides dealt with “controlling borders and fighting transnational crimes. They reached a full and permanent understanding to secure the common borders,” said al-Hussein after the meeting. Sudan Tribune

Chad’s Army Says It Will Continue Joint Operations against Jihadists
Chad’s government said on Sunday that its army would continue to participate in regional taskforces targeting jihadist groups, as well as the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, following President Idriss Deby’s suggestion it might withdraw its troops. Chad is a key contributor to a multinational force in the Lake Chad basin fighting Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram, and another farther north in the Sahel zone that counters militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. It is also the largest troop contributor to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, with more than 1,400 soldiers there as of January. In a speech broadcast on Friday that followed heavy fighting between the army and Boko Haram, Deby said: “From today, no Chadian soldier will take part in an external military operation.” However, in a statement on Sunday, Chad’s foreign affairs ministry said Deby’s remarks had been misinterpreted and only meant the army would no longer conduct unilateral operations beyond its borders in the Lake Chad basin. Reuters

Pandemic Claims Lives of 15 Medics, Infects 263 in Africa
At least 263 medics have tested positive while 15 have died across Africa in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, putting into focus the safety of first line responders to the scourge. More than 100 doctors and nurses have died from Covid-19 globally, including Gita Ramjee, a Ugandan-South African scientist and researcher in HIV prevention in Africa. Healthcare workers have been praised as heroes and heroines for their personal sacrifices in the face of the highly infectious disease that has seen doctors and nurses scramble to save the lives of thousands of patients. African doctors and nurses, like their colleagues in other parts of the world, have had to grapple with shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and long work shifts. Last week, at least 80 doctors and clinical officers from two hospitals in Kenya had to be quarantined for 14 days after coming into direct and indirect contact with a paediatric patient who tested positive and later died of the Covid-19. The East African

Congo Marks Somber Easter While Battling COVID-19 and Ebola
Congo marked the Easter holiday by bracing to battle both COVID-19 and a continuing outbreak of Ebola, after a second death from that disease was announced in eastern Congo Sunday. Across Africa, Easter was marked at home, with many Christians following services broadcast on television and radio as a result of bans on movement and gatherings to combat the new coronavirus. … Because church gatherings have been banned, Beni resident Jeannot Sikivahwa said he listened to a preacher on the radio. “He told us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ but also he talked about Ebola and coronavirus. He said that we must protect ourselves from these two epidemics plaguing us here in Beni,” Sikivahwa told The Associated Press. “It’s my first time to have this holiday under such confinement.” … Across Africa, Easter services were held in nearly empty churches. In Lagos, Nigeria, a Catholic mass was held in the Holy Cross cathedral and broadcast for viewing by people at home. In Nairobi, Kenya, a Catholic mass was held at the capital city’s cathedral and residents were able to stream on social media or national broadcast networks. As of Sunday, 52 of Africa’s 54 countries have reported the presence of COVID-19, including 744 deaths from 13,686 cases. AP



Photo: Adam Jones