Africa’s coronavirus cases have surpassed the 100,000 mark but it is still relatively low compared to other continents.
Since the outbreak started in December 2019, there have been concerns about the potential of the pandemic causing major havoc in Africa.
Those concerns have largely been because compared to other continents, Africa has weaker health systems and high levels of poverty that could impede efforts at containing the pandemic.
However relatively many governments on the continent have been proactive in rolling out measures that restrict movements such as lockdowns and curfews to control spread.
As at May 23, the continent has recorded just a little over 3,000 deaths but the United Nations and the World Health Organizations have all on separate occasions predicted more deaths if containment measures fail.
#COVID19 update in Africa (As of 23 May 2020, 9 am East Africa Time)
54 @_AfricanUnion Member States reporting 103,933 cases, 3,183 deaths, and 41,473 recoveries.
More information at https://t.co/vEZ4eupedf#COVID19 #FactsNotFear #AfricaResponds pic.twitter.com/GlqVUAqYT5
— Africa CDC (@AfricaCDC) May 23, 2020
For some scientists Africa is simply not testing more and would have reported more cases if testing had been revamped.
But there are other schools of thoughts that show that may be Africa’s young populations could be doing the magic.
World’s youngest populations in Africa
The continent’s young population has largely been attributed as one potential explanation for the low relatively number of deaths.
According to the United Nations data, the ten youngest populations in the world are all from Africa.
Part of Africa’s resilience is its very low median age. Many co-morbidities that proved to be Covid-19 boosters are just not found in young people. pic.twitter.com/RpKSksK2Hs
— Carlos Lopes (@LopesInsights) May 21, 2020
Such young populations according to scientists most often do not have co-morbidities that proved to be Covid-19 boosters.
In medicine, comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional conditions co-occurring with a primary condition.
For most of the deaths recorded from Covid-19, many of the victims have more than one underlining health conditions that allow for the virus to cause havoc.
Special care is being given to patients with comorbidities and underlying conditions who get infected with SARS-CoV-2 across the world.
So although the continent could have a surge in cases in the coming months if containment measures fail, deaths could also be low compared to other continents, may be because it has a younger population.
WHO hopeful of lower deaths in Africa
This month the World Health Organization said Africa’s young and fit population will help it avoid massive death toll from COVID-19.
The WHO’s figures and analysis predicted more than a quarter of a billion Africans will contract the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus within the first year.
It claims that the COVID-19 death toll will likely reach up to 190,000, which again is significantly fewer than the forecast loss of life in America should containment measures fail.
Africa has a population of around 1.2 billion people whereas Europe is home to just 700million individuals. Africa has around 900 million more residents than the US.
WHO’s Data analyst for Africa Humphrey Karamagi this month told The Guardian that Africa has a young population compared to other parts of the world and this will help keep the transmission rate down and reduce deaths.
Africa also has low levels of obesity which doubles the risk of dying from COVID-19, according to a recent British study.
“The biggest factor that plays out in our numbers is age,” explained Mr Karamagi adding that “We also have very few people who are obese, although the numbers are rising. But not at the levels in the US.”
#Africa could face as many as 250 million possible #COVID19 infections & 190,000 deaths if containment measures fail & the virus spreads uncontrollably. Countries must proactively expand capacity to test, trace, isolate & treat to stop the chain of transmission. pic.twitter.com/5oEhzlZYlm
— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) May 15, 2020
Younger population makes Africa resilient
Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair in a write up for his eponymous institute said “So far, the number of deaths in Africa is low, and we do not know why this is, so we must urgently take steps to find out. It seems that there are three possible explanations.”
He writes further saying “the first is that swift action, which many governments took to lockdown at the beginning, may have prevented Covid-19 from spreading. The second is that Africa’s relatively young and more resilient population may mean that the virus will take a less severe course than in other parts of the world.
The third is that the low levels of testing in Africa mean we simply don’t yet have a handle on how the virus has spread and is spreading – and that it will rise fast, and is perhaps already doing so.”
Africa has to deal with #COVID19 with a focus on preventing huge collateral damage to food supply & therefore damage to the health of people. Our report examines the pathway African govts should take in confronting this virus.
— Tony Blair Institute (@InstituteGC) May 22, 2020