in South Africa, life expectancy has dropped by four years

Vaccinate … five to six times faster

It is a race of speed which is engaged on the continent. Faced with the virulence of a third wave of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, carried by the tidal wave of the Delta variant, we must “Urgently accelerate the pace of vaccination”, warned Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, director of the African office of the World Health Organization (WHO), Thursday, July 22, during her weekly press briefing. The Delta variant, the most contagious of all, has now been detected in 26 out of 55 countries.

Although Africa has recorded a slight decline in contamination of 1.7% in recent days, “We must not be lulled into illusions”, insists Mme Moeti. Because Africa has since suffered “Eight weeks a very strong resurgence of the pandemic”, which continues to translate into a 12% rise in deaths this week, after a dramatic 43% surge the week before.

Vaccination in the township of Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg, on July 5, 2021.

The arrival of several deliveries of vaccines by the Covax international solidarity mechanism, orders made by the African Union (AU) and donations “Should allow different countries to vaccinate their populations five to six times faster”, explains the director of the Africa office, the only way to“Achieve the objective of 10% vaccination coverage by September”.

Currently, only 1.39% of the 1.3 billion Africans are fully immunized. In such a context, the Muslim holiday of Eid, celebrated by almost half of the continent, as well as the riots in South Africa, which alone weighs more than a third of continental contaminations, could result in an increased circulation of virus. Africa has nearly 6.4 million people infected and 161,638 dead, which represents 3.3% and 3.9% of global figures respectively.

This is the number of years of life expectancy that South Africans have lost during the last twelve months of the health crisis, according to Statistics South Africa, the national statistical agency. South Africa is the most affected country on the continent by the pandemic with 2.3 million cases of infection and 68,625 deaths from Covid-19 as of July 23. It has experienced two deadly waves between July 2020 and June 2021 and is currently going through a third without comparison.

A situation that has resulted in an increase in the crude death rate from 8.7 to 11.6 deaths per 1,000 people (+ 34%), from 2020 to 2021, says Statistics South Africa in its report, lowering the expectation of life “From 62.4 years in 2020 to 59.3 years in 2021 for men (…) and from 68.4 years in 2020 to 64.6 years for women ”. The statistical agency stressed, however, that the life expectancy indicator should not be interpreted as a projection of an individual’s lifespan, but rather shows the cumulative weight of the pandemic crisis.

In Nigeria, concern is growing

Concern is growing over Nigeria. The most populous country on the continent with nearly 220 million inhabitants has seen a 64% increase in cases of contamination in the past four weeks, when the Delta variant was detected only two weeks ago. Abuja fears an Indian scenario, explained the Nigerian Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, guest Thursday of the weekly update of the African Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC Africa).

Read also Africa facing Covid-19: skyrocketing deaths that increase by 43% in one week

The dizziness with which the situation escalated in India requires the health authorities to scrupulously monitor the circulation of the virus, especially in Lagos, where some estimates are concentrated around 15 million inhabitants. “Our challenges are immense, acknowledged the minister, so great are the inadequacies of our health system and the social inequalities. ”

Nigeria, which has only been able to vaccinate 2 million people, expects the delivery by September of some 40 million vaccines, including 29 million of the Johnson & Johnson monodose in the coming days, which the authorities wish to administer in the next few days. more quickly during large vaccination campaigns.

Des vaccins « made in Africa »

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday welcomed the conclusion of an agreement between Pfizer and BioNTech laboratories and the South African company Biovac for the production of a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the Cape Town. “This partnership is a breakthrough in our efforts to overcome the global inequality regarding vaccines, a veritable vaccine apartheid”, said Mr Ramaphosa.

Biovac's Covid-19 vaccine storage plant in Johannesburg, March 2, 2021.

He recalled that “The protection of Africans is a necessary and vital contribution to the protection of all humanity”. Under this agreement, Biovac will bottle the vaccine delivered by the two laboratories, in order to eventually distribute more than 100 million doses per year to the countries of the African Union (AU).

“This is the only way to guarantee Africa’s access to the vaccine, now and in the future”reacted Strive Masiyiwa, AU special envoy for the acquisition of vaccines, following in the footsteps of President Ramaphosa, who has repeatedly criticized rich countries for monopolizing the doses. The Zimbabwean billionaire, a guest of CDC Africa on Thursday, insisted that the continent “Had to stop depending on others and develop its own structures”.

Establish North-South partnerships

For several months, the pan-African organization has been working with several African countries with a pharmaceutical industry to forge North-South partnerships so that the continent can manufacture by 2040 about 60% of the vaccines necessary to protect its population, all diseases. confused.

Senegal, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria have already signed technology transfer agreements with the European Union, the United States, China or Russia. “We must learn from the Ebola and Covid crises and have absolutely our own approach, a conclu M. Masiyiwa. Otherwise, during the next pandemic, nothing will have changed. “

Oxygen shortages on the continent

The continent faces severe shortages of medical oxygen, the demand for which has never been higher. According to WHO figures, it is estimated that it is currently on average 50% higher than the demand observed at the same period in 2020. For example, the Tunisian Minister of Health, whose country is affected by a violent fourth wave, indicated Tuesday that the oxygen consumption of the country had increased almost tenfold, from 25,000 liters per day in normal times to 230,000 liters.

But the offer is struggling to follow. After a rapid assessment in six African countries, the UN agency revealed that only 27% of the oxygen needed was produced by African countries and decided to make “Strengthening the production of medical oxygen one of its priorities ».

Read also: In Tunisia, “the health system is collapsing”

In recent weeks, WHO has therefore helped the continent to “Order on the global market for liquid oxygen and storage cylinders, as well as for repairs to several production plants, in particular in Nigeria, Mauritania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)”, argued Thursday Dr Thierno Baldé, deputy head of emergency response at the WHO.

Local and sub-regional partnerships have also been established between countries to redistribute production, like Kenya for Uganda. Finally, mobile international medical teams are deployed to take care of the most critical cases, particularly in the south of the continent (DRC, Uganda, Namibia, Botswana).

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