Africa Media Review for April 8, 2020

Coronavirus in Africa: What Happens Next?
Just seven weeks after Africa recorded its first case of Covid-19 – an Italian national in Algeria – the virus is creeping across the continent, infecting more than 10,000 people and causing 487 deaths. [Two] of the region’s 54 countries – … Comoros, and Lesotho – remain apparently virus-free. “Case numbers are increasing exponentially in the African region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa. “It took 16 days from the first confirmed case in the region to reach 100 cases. It took a further 10 days to reach the first thousand. Three days after this, there were 2,000 cases, and two days later we were at 3,000.” In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, coronavirus has spread beyond the capital, Kinshasa, to the easternmost regions of the country, which until recently were still in the grip of an Ebola outbreak, according to the WHO. In South Africa, which has the highest viral incidence on the continent, all provinces are now fighting the outbreak of Covid-19. Confirmed cases in Cameroon, Senegal and Burkina Faso are also widespread. While transmission rates are still low, the key fear is over what happens next. The Guardian

Few Doctors, Fewer Ventilators: African Countries Fear They Are Defenseless against Inevitable Spread of Coronavirus
Zororo Makamba wasn’t supposed to die of the novel coronavirus. Not just because of his age, which at 30 placed him well out of the at-risk category for COVID-19 complications, but because of who he was. A well-known, pro-government media personality in Zimbabwe, and the son of a prominent business mogul, Makamba had the wealth and the connections that should have guaranteed him the best care possible. Instead, on March 23, Zimbabwe’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus died alone in a quarantined hospital, three days after his diagnosis. Hospital staff, lacking protective equipment, were afraid to come near him. They had no drugs and there was no ventilator available. Personal calls to the President for a transfer went unheeded, according to an account by his brother published in a local newspaper. Makamba’s death shocked the nation, not just because he was a celebrity, but because it demonstrates just how unprepared the country is for a coronavirus outbreak. “If someone like Zororo, someone so monied and so connected, can’t get the right care, what kind of chance does an ordinary Zimbabwean like me have?” asks human rights activist Thandekile Moyo. Time

Arrests Mount as Africa Battles a Destructive Wave of COVID-19 Disinformation
As a surge of social-media disinformation begins to jeopardize health efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, some African countries are reacting with a new tactic: criminal charges and threats of imprisonment for the spreaders of falsehoods. The flood of conspiracy theories – largely on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp – is hampering a crucial campaign to expand testing for the coronavirus in South Africa, where many people are now refusing to have it done. It has also sparked opposition to Chinese medical aid in Nigeria, led to the destruction of a virus screening centre in Ivory Coast and triggered hostility to international groups that are developing vaccines. South African police, in response, have arrested eight people for disseminating false information … Human-rights groups have criticized the emergency regulations as excessive and dangerous. And the arrests seem to be ineffective: The disinformation has continued relentlessly, despite the criminal charges. Much of it is fuelled by a mistrust of governments and scientists. After the arrest of the Cape Town man, Twitter was immediately filled with dozens of tweets from South Africans who insisted that his claims were correct. The Globe & Mail

66 at South African Hospital Have Coronavirus, Mostly Staff
Sixty-six people at a single hospital in South Africa have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past few days, the health minister said Tuesday, as anxiety rose among health workers over the shortage of protective gear. At least 48 of the people who tested positive at St. Augustine’s Hospital in the city of Durban are staff, Zweli Mkhize said. He said authorities are looking into closing parts of the facility. The minister also sought to ease the fears of health workers after one union went to court last week pressing the government for more protective gear. South Africa’s supplies should last up to eight weeks, he said, adding that no one will be forced to work where they feel unprotected. St. Augustine’s is one of Durban’s largest private hospitals, said Denis Chopera, a virologist working in the city. “This definitely shows the problem of protecting our health care workers,” he said. “These health care workers are going to go home and infect their families. Many will return home to townships and informal settlements that are crowded places where the virus could spread. There needs to be regular, frequent testing of workers. This is a big challenge for South Africa.” AP

DR Congo: Attack Blamed on ADF Kills 6 Near Beni
Five men and a child were killed in an overnight attack blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces militia near the eastern DR Congo city of Beni, cut off because of the coronavirus pandemic, local sources said Tuesday, April 7. The attack occurred in Halungupa, some 30 km (18 miles) from Beni in North Kivu province, local official John Kambale Sibendire told AFP. The local police chief confirmed the attack. In a measure aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the region’s main three cities of Beni, Goma and Butembo have been cut off from the rest of North Kivu. The region, torn by armed conflict for the past 25 years, has fought an Ebola epidemic – the DR Congo’s 10th – since August 2018. If no further Ebola cases emerge, the epidemic is set to be declared over on April 12, after claiming more than 2,200 lives. Of the 180 cases of coronavirus recorded in the DR Congo so far, including 18 deaths, at least one case was detected in Beni. The Defense Post

As Congo’s Ebola Epidemic Draws to a Close, Coronavirus Concerns and Relapse Risks
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s deadliest ever Ebola outbreak appears to be drawing to a close, but aid groups have cautioned against scaling down response efforts too quickly amid concerns of survivors relapsing, the infection living on in body fluids, and a growing number of COVID-19 cases spreading across the country. No new confirmed case of Ebola has been recorded since 17 February, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This has left once packed treatment centres empty, and means that the 21-day incubation period during which transmission between people normally occurs has long since passed. The WHO said it would wait until 12 April before officially declaring an end to the 20-month epidemic – the world’s second largest – which sickened over 3,400 people and left more than 2,200 dead. But response workers told The New Humanitarian that some 1,200 survivors must still be closely observed in case they pass on the virus, and cautioned that new cases may yet emerge in areas where ongoing armed violence makes monitoring difficult. The New Humanitarian

Mali: UN Mission Fulfills Mandate, Aids Battle against Coronavirus
As the COVID-19 pandemic plagues the world, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali told the Security Council on Tuesday that the mission continues to fulfill its mandate while doing whatever it can to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from overrunning the country. To date, Mali has recorded 46 positive COVID-19 cases, including one case within the UN mission, and five deaths. “Despite these exceptional conditions, MINUSMA [the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali] continues to fulfill the mission entrusted,” Special Representative and head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said in an open videoconference to the Council. He highlighted two priorities, namely the Implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and supporting the political framework for managing the crisis in the country’s conflict-affected central region. In implementing the Agreement, since February 2020, more than 1,000 elements have been deployed in Gao, Timbuktu, Kidal and Ménaka as part of the first reconstituted Units of the Malian Defense and Security Forces in the North, according to the mission chief. UN News

‘Everyone Looks Broken’ – Anger as Forced Coronavirus Quarantine Extended in Kenya
Hundreds of people held under mandatory quarantine in Kenya after returning from abroad are up in arms after the government extended their confinement for another 14 days. Around 2,000 people were placed in forced quarantine as they arrived in the country from 22 March until international flights were banned three days later, a chaotic process criticised by some passengers as likely to have helped spread the virus. Mixed with those who had been in contact with patients who tested positive, the quarantined Kenyans and foreigners make up some 80% of the country’s novel coronavirus (Covid-19) patients. As of Monday at 14:00 (GMT) the country had recorded 172 cases and six deaths. Health ministry guidelines initially said that those quarantined would be tested after five days and if their results were negative, they would be sent home to self-isolate. Those testing positive would be taken to treatment centres. An unknown number were discharged. However, the rest who had hoped for freedom after their two weeks were up were stunned when the government on Saturday ordered a 14-day extension of quarantine for those in facilities that had registered a positive case. AFP

Refugees, Internally Displaced: The Sitting Ducks of COVID-19 Pandemic
Refugee International, an advocacy group that has been assessing the preparedness and capacity of refugee camps to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic has a dire warning: The social and health infrastructure in the camps is weak and ill-prepared for an outbreak of this magnitude in the event that infections spread the virus through these communities. The group warned in a report released last Monday and titled Covid-19 and the Displaced: Addressing the Threat of the Novel Coronavirus in Humanitarian Emergencies, that the ease with which the coronavirus is spreading could be a severe blow to millions of refugees in the region. It is asking governments and humanitarian organisations to prioritise access to water, hygiene and related interventions in facilities for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially those in camps or camp-like settings. It should also include distribution of essential personal hygiene items such as soap, disinfectants and sanitisers. The East African

Armed Conflicts, State Repression Fuel Human Rights Violations across Africa – Report
Protesters across sub-Saharan Africa have braved bullets and beatings to defend their rights in the face of continuing conflict and state repression, Amnesty International said today as it published its annual review of human rights in the region. The organisation highlighted the bravery and defiance of people who took to the streets to demand change, but warned that they are being let down by governments who continue to perpetrate human rights violations across the region. The report analyses major developments from the past year including the deposition of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the Zimbabwean government’s response to mass protests, and increasing attacks on civilians in Mozambique and Mali. “In 2019 we saw incredible people power in mass protests which swept across sub-Saharan Africa. From Sudan to Zimbabwe, and Democratic Republic of Congo to Guinea, people braved brutal crackdowns to stand up for their rights,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s East and Southern Africa Director. Premium Times

Rwandans Mark Genocide Anniversary under Nationwide Lockdown
For Augustine Ngabonziza, a survivor of Rwanda’s genocide, it’s difficult not to wonder whether God has become more distant these days. How else can one explain why a country that always comes together for the anniversary of the killings is now confined at home? Every year on April 7, the 49-year-old Ngabonziza and friends visit a memorial site in the capital, Kigali, where they lay a wreath for the more than 800,000 genocide victims, including his family members, and pray for the dead. But on Tuesday, 26 years after the genocide, they could not go. The East African nation is under a national lockdown because of the coronavirus and has deployed police and military to make sure people stay indoors. “It’s terrible not to be able to honor the dead,” Ngabonziza told The Associated Press. “We have gone through difficulties, but this is horrifying.” AP

Virus Crisis Cuts Off Billions Sent to Poor around the World
The devastation wrought by COVID-19 across the developed world in cutting into the financial lifelines for people across Latin America, Africa and Asia. The World Bank estimates that a record $529 billion was transferred to developing countries through official channels in 2018, the latest year for which figures are available. Billions more moved unrecorded in cash. Many of those remittances are sent home by people who work in service jobs or occupations, like day labor, that have no monthly paycheck and are worst affected by the global downtown. … Across Africa, where remittances have grown to surpass foreign aid and direct foreign investment and some $82 billion flowed in during 2018 alone, untold millions of people are already feeling the pinch. One money-transfer company in Europe sending funds to Africa saw an 80 percent drop in volume in a single week, the Washington-based Center for Financial Inclusion said last month. In Somalia Abdalla Sabdow, a former security guard and a father of six, made his way through Mogadishu last week to check on the $200 he receives monthly from his cousin Yusuf Ahmed, a taxi driver in the U.S. But the money was late. His cousin, like many in the U.S., had been confined to his home for almost three weeks, unable to work. AP

China Must Step Up on Africa Debt Relief, Ghana Finance Minister Says
China must do more to help ease the debt burden of African countries facing economic calamity from the coronavirus pandemic, Ghana’s finance minister said. Africa accounts for just a fraction of global cases of the disease, but its countries already feel the impact, with the continent’s economies expected to contract, putting about 20 million jobs at risk. “My feeling is that China has to come on stronger,” Ken Ofori-Atta said during a conversation on Monday with Masood Ahmed, president of the Washington-based Center for Global Development that was posted on the think-tank’s website. “African debt to China is $145 billion or so, over $8 billion of payments is required this year … So that needs to be looked at.” African governments are calling for $100 billion in assistance, including support for a moratorium on all external debt and eventually some debt write-offs. Reuters

What COVID-19 Reveals about Educational Inequality in Ghana
Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, is looking for new ways to carry on teaching his students. He has no other choice. Ever since Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo ordered last month the indefinite closure of all schools to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, many of the country’s higher educational institutions began exploring options in online learning. “I plan to use WhatsApp and Zoom to make the classes more interactive,” said Opoku-Agyemang, who teaches literature courses at the Accra-based university’s Department of English. “I will also be having guest artists and guest lecturers join in. The artists will use Instagram Live, while the guest lecturers will probably use Zoom.” Yet, it won’t be easy. “Stable electricity – we had an extended power cut yesterday; reliable internet; student engagement,” said Opoku-Agyemang, listing some of the challenges threatening the success of the move online. Al Jazeera

How the Internet Is Making Stay-at-Home Difficult for Africans
Across the African continent, most governments have implemented a lockdown on their citizens to mitigate and ultimately halt the spread of COVID-19. So far, South Africa has been the worst hit country by the virus with about 1,749 cases as of Tuesday (07.04.2020). As a result, the government under President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a 21-day lockdown on March 27 which included the closure of schools around the country. In an effort to keep education going, teachers have turned to the internet as a channel for teaching content. Everton Stream lives in Stellenbosch, a town about 50 kilometers east of Cape Town. His daughters are 7 and 11, they both go to school and in order to keep up with the curriculum, their teacher has been sending out homework by email. However, downloading the homework requires internet and that isn’t always easy to come by. The data offered by service providers on mobile phones is often expensive, very slow and expires before the kids have finished the work, he says. In addition, they have to finish homework every day which leads to an accumulation of data costs. DW



Photo: Adam Jones