Ethiopia started distributing China’s donations of medical supplies to other African states today. To fight the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of test kits and protective suits will be delivered across Africa in the coming weeks.
The African Union already received 2,000 test kits from the Chinese government and is expecting another 10,000 of them along with other crucial medical supplies needed to fight the spread of Covid-19 across the continent.
The distribution of the medical equipment donated is centralised by the African Union’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in Ethiopia.
Jack Ma, Chinese tech billionaire and co-founder of the Alibaba online shopping platform, promised to donate, via his foundations, 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 protective suits to each of the 54 African states.
“We cannot assume this continent of 1.3 billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. The world cannot afford the unthinkable consequences of a COVID-19 pandemic in Africa," he said in a statement.
Ma pledged a total of 1.1 million coronavirus test kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 medical protective suits and face shields the African continent. On Sunday 22 March, Ethiopia received 1.5 million test kits, 5.4 million face masks and tens of thousands of medical supplies.
The African Union said that Ethiopian Airlines will help distribute the equipment to each of its member states.
Ma’s donations of medical supplies to fight coronavirus extended to the United States, and a number of countries in Europe (Italy, France for example), Asia (Pakistan, Laos among others), Latin America (Brazil, Cuba and 22 more).
Coronavirus creeping on Africa
Although there are still fewer coronavirus infections in Africa than in other parts of the world, WHO figures show that the continent now has more than 1,300 cases of Covid-19 in 43 countries and 40 deaths across the continent (Italy registered 5,476 deaths).
Egypt is the worst-hit with more than 294 cases and six deaths, followed by South Africa with 274 cases and Algeria’s 201 confirmed cases.
World Health Organisation (WHO) director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that official figures likely did not reflect the full picture.
“The rapid evolution of Covid-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.
“But we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.”
More worrying is that 12 African countries have recorded local transmissions. The WHO said governments must prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission.
Such a scenario will present a major challenge to countries with weak health systems as they do not have sufficient resources to cope with a large influx of patients needing isolation and intensive care.
“Across the region, nearly 26 million people are living with HIV. Over 58 million children have stunted growth due to malnutrition. So, it is possible that younger people will be more at risk in Africa than in other parts of the world,” WHO’s Moeti added.