Friday, April 24, 2020

Africa short of medical equipment

As Africa braces for a surge in coronavirus cases, its countries are dangerously behind in the global race for scarce medical equipment. Even in the best scenario, the United Nations says 74 million test kits and 30,000 ventilators will be needed by the continent’s 1.3 billion people this year. Very few are in hand. Ten nations have no ventilators at all. Africa imports as much as 94% of its pharmaceuticals, the U.N. says.

“We are competing with the developed world,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Amer Daoudi, the U.N. World Food Program’s senior director of operations, told The Associated Press. “Countries in Europe and North America are paying attention to their own internal needs..."

The Trump administration has said coronavirus aid to at-risk countries would not include key medical equipment. A senior U.S. administration official said aid has focused on water, sanitation and messaging
“I’ve heard no situation yet in any of our countries where the U.S. has made any medical supplies available anywhere,” said Charles Franzen, director of humanitarian and disaster response for World Relief. 
“Irresponsible behavior by richer countries” will not solve the pandemic, said Amit Thakker, president of the Africa Healthcare Federation, criticizing “any country that diverts supplies for the sake of their own citizens” at developing countries’ expense.
 South Africa has only about four weeks’ worth of protective gear. With better-resourced countries more likely to score deals, “that’s not great for Africa. ... Ventilators are like trying to spot a dodo bird at the moment, literally,” said Stavros Nicolaou, in South Africa.
Sudanese-born billionaire philanthropist Mo Ibrahim. “This is the time for everybody to act together, not to compete.”

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