Africa Media Review for April 9, 2020

Coronavirus Could Push Half a Billion People into Poverty: Oxfam
The coronavirus pandemic could push an additional half a billion people into poverty, aid charity Oxfam has warned, demanding that world leaders contain the economic fallout and cancel $1 trillion of developing countries’ debt payments in 2020. Oxfam is ringing the alarm for richer nations to agree to an “Economic Rescue Package for All,” which would enable the governments of poor countries to provide cash to those who have lost their livelihoods. The call comes ahead of crucial gatherings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers next week. … Up to 600 million people risk falling into poverty as major economies shut down to halt the spread of COVID-19, according to Oxfam’s new report Dignity Not Destitution. The pandemic could push development gains back by as much as three decades in some places in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa. … In Ghana, cancelling the east African country’s external debt payments for the year would allow officials to give $20 a month to each of the country’s 16 million children, disabled and elderly people for six months. Al Jazeera

Coronavirus: ECOWAS Commission Announces Support for West African Countries
The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has announced financial donations and equipment to its member states in support of their fight against the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. The commission in its statement on Wednesday by its President, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, reaffirmed its solidarity with member states as they battle to contain the COVID-19 scourge. Mr Brou said the commission continues to closely monitor the evolution of the pandemic in the world and particularly in West Africa. He said as of April 5, 2020, the 15 member States were affected by the pandemic, with 1,739 confirmed cases of contamination, 55 deaths and 328 full recoveries. It noted that approximately 95 per cent of deaths were patients with underlying conditions. … He said the commission’s specialised health institution responsible for coordinating the response at the regional level, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), has drawn up a Regional Strategic Plan with all Member States. Premium Times

Is the Coronavirus Killing Press Freedom in Africa?
Movement across Africa has been restricted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  Since lockdowns began, journalists across the continent are reporting a sharp rise in physical attacks by security forces as they attempt to report on COVID-19. DW takes a look a some of Africa’s most challenging regions for journalists. The Ghanaian journalist Yussif Abdul-Ganiyu is fearful for his life. DW’s correspondent for the Hausa service recounts what happened to him on the weekend while on assignment in Kumasi, in the south of the country. “I saw a parked military vehicle. A female military officer got out and came towards me. She called me and asked: ‘Are you guys writing stories about us? Why are you doing that? We aren’t happy about that, I am warning you!'” Before she had finished speaking those words, Abdul-Ganiyu recalled, the military official “clubbed me from behind.” The severe blow to the back of the neck knocked Abdul-Ganiyu out temporarily. Dazed, he was then taken into police custody where soldiers confiscated his recording equipment. DW

Egypt Extends Night-Time Curfew in Fight against Virus
Egypt will extend a nationwide night-time curfew by a further two weeks in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said on Wednesday. He told a news conference the measure would be enforced from 8pm (1800 GMT) to 6:00 am and run until April 23. The curfew would start an hour later, he said, to avoid overcrowding in public transport. Schools and universities, as well as restaurants and cafes would also remain closed until then, while food outlets would be allowed to offer delivery services only. To stem the spread of the coronavirus, authorities have also halted air traffic until the end of the month and closed tourist and religious sites. Penalities against violators including fines of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds (just over $250) and even prison, the prime minister said. AFP

DRC President’s Chief of Staff Detained over Corruption Allegations
A top aide to Democratic Republic of Congo president, Felix Tshisekedi, has been arrested and detained on allegations of misappropriating public funds. Vital Kamerhe, the chief of staff and a coalition partner to Tshisekedi was picked up on Wednesday, questioned and subsequently detained by police in the capital Kinshasa. The president’s spokesman, Kasongo Mwema, told the media: “The president does not comment on the decisions of the justice system.” Police were forced to use tear gas to disperse Kamerhe faithful who had gathered at the public prosecutor’s office. The action was to enforce a ban on public gathering of more than 20 persons as a containment measure related to the coronavirus pandemic. Reports indicate that in his hometown of Bukavu, located in eastern Congo, protests were held outside his party headquarters as hundreds of young people burned tyres and blocked roads. Africa News

Botswana Places Cabinet, Parliament in Quarantine over Virus
Botswana is placing its entire cabinet and members of parliament in quarantine after a health worker screening lawmakers for coronavirus was found to be infected with Covid-19. Screening was conducted on cabinet members and MPs on Wednesday as they arrived at a meeting to discuss a request by President Mokgweetsi Masisi for an extended state of emergency. All lawmakers, including the president, will go into quarantine from today, Public Health Director Malaki Tshipayagae told lawmakers on Thursday, in comments broadcast on state television. “You have to quarantine at home if you can or, if that’s not possible, we will find a place for you to be quarantined,” Tshipayagae said. “We will test you on the 14th day and if you are negative, allow you to go out of quarantine.” Botswana’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases has doubled in the past week to 13. Bloomberg

Somali Officials Confirm US Airstrike Killed Senior Al-Shabab Leader
A Somali intelligence official has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike in southern Somalia killed a senior leader of militant group al-Shabab. The official in Somalia’s southwest region told VOA that the airstrike on April 2 killed Yusuf Jiis, a long-standing, high-ranking leader in the al-Qaida-affiliated group. The airstrike took place near Bush Madina, about 55 kilometers east of the town of Dinsor, in a Shabab-controlled area. “This individual was a key leader in the al-Shabab organization,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command. “He was violent, ruthless and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives. His removal makes Somalia and neighboring countries safer.” … Somali security officials identified a second militant killed in the strike as Yonis Sheikh Dahir, a counterintelligence operative. VOA

Ethiopia Coronavirus: Courts to Handle Domestic Violence Cases as Urgent
Ethiopia’s Chief Justice on Thursday disclosed that federal courts will listen to domestic violence cases that arise from the stay at home order occasioned by a state of emergency declaration on Wednesday April 8. CJ Meaza Ashenafi disclosed the measure on Twitter: “Considering the possibility of an increase in domestic violence during the #StayAtHome period, a decision is made for federal courts to entertain charges of domestic violence as an urgent type of case.” On March 18, the federal courts announced partial closure as means of containing spread of the coronavirus. The courts were not to accept new files except cases requiring urgent attention. On April 1, the closure was extended by another 23 days. Government imposed a five-month state of emergency across the territory, the sternest measure yet for Africa’s second most populous nation. All land borders had been closed and most regional states had strict bans on public transport. Africa News

First Coronavirus Case in Eastern Libya
Authorities running eastern Libya confirmed the first case of coronavirus on Tuesday despite closing borders and imposing a curfew to limit social interactions. Libya confirmed 20 cases of the new coronavirus, with the rest in western areas controlled by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). The UN and aid agencies urged Libya’s warring factions to stop fighting, but conflict increased in the last two weeks and projectiles hit a hospital in a GNA-held area of Tripoli on Monday. Eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, has been attempting to capture Tripoli for over a year. Aid agencies including the World Health Organisation said Libya is poorly placed to withstand any major coronavirus outbreak as much infrastructure is damaged. Reuters

Hunger Hits 500,000 More Zimbabweans
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Wednesday that hundreds of thousands more people had slipped into the severely-hungry category in Zimbabwe, where over half of the population faces hunger. It said a recent study revealed that the “number of acutely food insecure Zimbabweans had risen to 4.3 million, from 3.8 million at the end of last year.” In all 7.7 million people, more than half the population were food insecure and needed multi-sectoral humanitarian support according to the UN. In previous hunger years, mainly the rural population would require food aid, but lately millions of urban dwellers are needing food aid. “With most Zimbabweans already struggling to put food on the table, the Covid-19 pandemic risks even wider and deeper desperation,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP’s Zimbabwe country director. AFP

Burkina Faso: UNHCR Warns about Rising Rate of COVID-19 Cases
Burkina Faso has one of the fastest infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa with millions potentially at risk. The UN refugee agency is warning that the effect of coronavirus pandemic on the country already suffering from poverty and attacks by armed groups could be dire. [Video] Al Jazeera

Poachers Kill More Rhinos as Coronavirus Halts Tourism to Africa
The past few weeks have not been easy for Nico Jacobs, founder of Rhino 911, a nonprofit that provides emergency helicopter transport for rhinoceroses in need of rescue in South Africa. That’s because times are much worse for the rhinos. Since South Africa announced a national lockdown on March 23 to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, Mr. Jacobs has had to respond to a rhino poaching incident nearly every day. On March 25, he rescued a 2-month-old white rhino calf whose mother had been killed by poachers. The next day he was called to rescue two black rhinos whose horns had been hacked off by poachers. When he finally tracked them down it was too late – both were dead. “Just as soon as the lockdown hit South Africa, we started having an incursion almost every single day,” Mr. Jacobs said. At least nine rhinos have been poached in South Africa’s North West province since the lockdown, he said, “and those are just the ones we know about.” The New York Times

Coronavirus: Nigeria’s Mega Churches Adjust to Empty Auditoriums
The auditoriums of Nigeria’s mega churches are empty and their gates are shut as they are forced to observe a government ban on large gatherings to halt the spread of coronavirus. But it took not only threats, but force and arrests for the message to get across. In some cases those in charge of making the churches bolt their doors turned to the scriptures. “May I use the words of [Prophet] Mordechai: ‘For such as time as this we do what is appropriate,'” said the leader of an enforcing team in the capital, Abuja, as he arrested a pastor in front of his congregation. Dressed all in black, had he had a collar he would have passed for a preacher with his baritone voice and gesticulations. The pastor he led out of the church, sporting a burgundy-coloured suit, shiny black shoes and with hair that glowed in the sun, looked like many of those who now lead huge congregations in the West African nation. These preachers have changed the face of Christianity in Nigeria – with their evangelical sermons, prophecies and promises of miracles. BBC

Amid Lockdown, South Africa’s Waste Pickers Suffer Most
Beauty Ncube is surrounded by large bags of paper, plastic and tin cans. Sitting on a broken office chair, she picks at her cuticles. The makeshift disinfectant she has been using has dried her skin. “Lockdown changed a lot of things for me,” she says. “I was providing for my kids with the little money I’m getting, but now, I’m starving.” Ncube is a waste picker, or reclaimer, in Johannesburg, and one of the tens of thousands of informal workers across South Africa who earn a livelihood by recovering recyclable materials from municipal waste. For the first time in her more than 20 years as a reclaimer, Ncube has been prohibited from working in the streets due to a three-week lockdown imposed by the government on March 27 to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The measure has confined South Africans to their homes and allowed only for certain work deemed essential services to continue. While waste management was declared an essential service, the informal recycling sector was not. … On April 3, Barbara Creecy, South Africa’s minister in charge of environmental affairs, announced that her department had submitted a proposal to include waste pickers in the national Solidarity Response Fund, a scheme designed to support the most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis. Al Jazeera

The Kenyan Factory That Transformed into a Surgical Mask Assembly Line Overnight
A week ago, Josephine Wambua spent her days stitching gardening clothes. This week, the factory where she works transformed into an all-out effort to make 30,000 surgical masks a day in a country that barely produced any before. “To sit here and do something that is useful to the world is a dream,” said Wambua, 24, who never went to school. “I never thought I would be part of something that has the potential of saving millions from dying.” The factory’s shift in production reflects a dire need for even the most basic protective equipment here. Like Kenya, most African countries have little experience manufacturing medical supplies, instead relying on imports from China and foreign aid. But as the coronavirus spreads more widely on the continent, African governments are coming up against stiff competition from heavily industrialized economies in bids for masks and other gear. … In this small county 100 miles east of Nairobi, the governor decided last month that she was fed up with waiting on imports or donations from China. She knew how quickly the coronavirus could spread. The Washington Post

Meet the Doctor Leading Africa’s Fight to Contain the Coronavirus Pandemic
Every Thursday for the past month, journalists have dialled in from all over the continent to attend the virtual Covid-19 briefing by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The briefing is delivered from Brazzaville by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, who calmly details the latest developments in Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus. In doing so, switching effortlessly between English and French, Moeti has become the continent’s public face for this fight: a reassuring voice in the midst of our collective panic; an anchor in the gathering storm. It helps that she has seen this all before. During her decades-long career in public health, Moeti has battled two other major epidemics. Her worst experience, she says – worse even than the current pandemic – was confronting HIV/Aids. When it first appeared, in the 1980s, there was no treatment. “It was the sense of helplessness, of not being able to do anything about all these people dying,” she told the Mail & Guardian in a telephonic interview. Mail &Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones