Africa, which is suffering a second wave of coronavirus, has passed the 100,000 mark since the start of the pandemic, but the toll on the poor continent of 1.2 billion inhabitants is undoubtedly much higher.
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The 54 countries in the region have a total of 100,000 deaths (for 3,793,660 reported cases), according to an AFP count. The region, relatively spared, is the last, besides Oceania, to reach this threshold crossed in April by Europe.
But these figures are based only on the reports communicated daily by the health authorities of each country and only reflect a fraction of the actual total of contaminations.
African country officially the most affected, South Africa, which quickly carried out a vast campaign of tests, now has 1.5 million cases and nearly 48,500 deaths.
“The cases are clearly underestimated because of insufficient access to health facilities and because less serious cases are underreported”, affirms to AFP Barry Schoub, virologist member of the Scientific Council at the South African ministry of Health.
Weak diagnostic capacities, lack of means, a significant part of the African population has gone under the radar.
“A lot of countries basically have PCR tests, in capitals. And the further we move away from urban centers, the fewer tests there are, ”explains epidemiologist Emmanuel Baron, from the NGO Médecins sans frontières (MSF) present in Africa.
And this disease can go “unnoticed”, he recalls, with asymptomatic cases or symptoms easily confused with others.
– “Papaya” – In Zimbabwe, a country with a disaster economy and health system, in the midst of a pandemic, hospitals filled up while the official number of cases remained stubbornly low.
Tanzania has simply stopped the tests, after ironically declaring positive a papaya, a quail or a goat. The government last released official figures in April. Yet the vice president of the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar died on Wednesday … from COVID.
“If someone had told me a year ago that our continent would see 100,000 deaths from this infection, I probably would not have believed it,” the director of the African Centers for Control told reporters on Thursday. and disease prevention (CDC), John Nkengasong.
However, the toll remains significantly lower than in Europe, the most affected continent with 818,912 deaths. The other regions most in mourning are Latin America and the Caribbean (649,006 deaths), and the United States and Canada (512,295 deaths).
And after a sharp increase in January, the figures have fallen sharply for a few weeks in Africa. Over the last seven days, 3,054 deaths have been recorded, a decrease of 18% compared to the previous week. At the height of the pandemic, the continent had 906 deaths per day.
– “No disaster” -If the data are clearly underestimated, “we have not seen to date a health disaster in Africa, nor major sources of contamination as in Europe or the United States”, notes Emmanuel Baron.
Several studies on antibodies, which make it possible to detect whether a person even cured has been infected, are underway in several African countries and should allow several months to have a more precise idea of the impact of the pandemic.
For now, we know that South Africa, where almost all of the latest cases are attributed to a variant of the virus known to be more contagious and which has spread widely, concentrates nearly half of the deaths and cases declared from the continent. The other African countries the most bereaved are Egypt (10,150 deaths for 175,677 cases) and Morocco (8,524 deaths for 480,056 cases).
Reported to the population, it is still South Africa, which has just administered its first vaccines, which is the most affected with 82 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, ahead of Tunisia (65 deaths) and Eswatini (55).
Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected more than 109 million people and killed more than 2.4 million since the virus began to appear in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.