With the world on pause in lockdowns almost everywhere, we are left to gauge the cost of this pandemic. Many countries have had their economies struck to the point of collapse, while others bear a more painful price in terms of the lives they lost to the virus.
The poorest countries of the African continent, however, are being hit the hardest by the pandemic. These countries already face extreme poverty, food shortages, corruption and countless other human atrocities. So far, Covid-19 has been fighting for attention against these other issues. Yet, to some, the Coronavirus and its effects are no harsher than the lives they face every day.
In Nigeria, with its predicted death toll of almost 400,000 people, its poorest citizens are truly struggling. Many feel the pandemic is outweighed by a bigger issue: starvation. Some even see the virus as a better end than the hunger crisis that they have to endure daily. The country began easing its lockdown even before the peak had been reached as it may have been completely devasted had their economy stayed halted any further. While many fear this is a dangerous game to play, for some countries it is unfortunately a necessary one.
But it is not all bad news. In such adversity and strife, people rise against the challenges they face to help one another. A woman in Zimbabwe, who runs a kitchen providing free meals, is helping to curb starvation in her locality; feeding thousands of people each day during the lockdown.
Such kindness in these times, though, is rare as not everyone can help in such a way. In South Africa alone, “mile-long lines” could be seen stretching outside one of only three food banks in the country. It would seem, that in countries such as these, the more pressing pandemic is that of both growing hunger and food shortages.
And yet, starvation is not the only issue for people to worry about. Africa is home to the least economically developed countries on the planet and this only makes dealing with the Coronavirus much more difficult. Many African states; like Somalia, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Chad; have to deal with a lack of basic medical equipment; professionals; facilities or even functioning healthcare systems.
Further, where there had been a lack of protective equipment during the initial stages of this crisis; some countries have still not recovered enough resources while others had hardly any to begin with. Without these essential tools even before the virus struck, this pandemic is testing the resolve of many healthcare systems and workers. Ghana, for example, has seen almost 3000 of its medical staff become infected. Without these trained individuals, more people will be without basic care should they contract the virus and require medical assistance.
The worst hit country within the continent with regard to the cases of infection, however, has been South Africa (SA); a country which has not yet felt its peak. SA is currently fifth in the world in terms of the numbers of confirmed cases. A stark place to be in as they have hardly reached the climax of their cases yet, even if such data may be unreliable due to ineffective recording and inconsistent testing.
Though, as the provinces of SA brace themselves for what is to come, vaccine trials have finally commenced. Over 2000 participants have volunteered for human trials of a new vaccine, which the country hopes will be the miracle they need. Only time will tell whether this hope will come to fruition and whether these trials will evidently bring about a cure; but for now, the African continent and many countries within it are stuck in limbo. Staving off starvation and now infection, its people try to deal with this new reality that they are facing. A reality that is regrettably not at its worst.
This pandemic has not only taken so many lives; with a potentially more catastrophic toll to come; but it has also aggravated existing issues to fever pitch. While this virus does not discriminate who it impacts and infects; it is sadly clear that those with worse access to healthcare and food provisions will suffer the brunt of this pandemic.