Tag Archives: Africa

Coronavirus Africa map: Which countries are most at risk?

A map has been created to illustrate the continent’s most at-risk countries for the coronavirus and those best equipped to fend off the epidemic.

People hoped the coronavirus – or COVID-19, as it has been officially renamed by the World Health Organization (WHO) – was contained, stabilised or even on the decline. However, once Chinese authorities adopted a broader definition of coronavirus cases, at the flip of a switch the number of persons infected dramatically increased from an estimated 44,000 on 12 February to more than 60,000 on 13 February, with the vast majority of cases reported in China and, for the time being, no cases reported in Africa.

However, WHO and the African branch of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prefer to be cautious: statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that Africa will be the only continent unaffected by COVID-19, and it is possible that there are people in Africa who have the virus but have simply not yet been detected.

At this time, the various suspected cases in countries like Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have proved to be false alarms.

In an effort to go beyond basic probabilities and platitudes, scientists from Europe, Africa and the United States teamed up to map, as precisely as possible, the virus’s importation risk in Africa. Which countries are the most at risk and where does the illness have the greatest chance of being appropriately stamped out?

From the most vulnerable countries…

To answer these questions, doctors, epidemiologists, demographers and public health experts compared data, created a methodology and drew up maps.

The results of their work, which was conducted under the supervision of experts from INSERM at Sorbonne Université, were published online at medrxiv.org and provide a list – accompanied by various maps and charts – of the African countries most vulnerable to the arrival of COVID-19.

Part of what makes the study so original is that it takes into account the volume of air traffic connections between each African country and Chinese regions heavily impacted by the virus (see map 1).

Based on this criterion, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa stand out the most and, since the first infected individuals are highly likely to arrive in Africa via air travel, are the most at risk.

The silver lining is that these three countries, especially South Africa, rank among those with the soundest health system and are probably the most capable of containing the epidemic.

Next in line in the high-risk category are Nigeria and Ethiopia due to their close ties with China. They are followed by Morocco, Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya.

… to the countries best equipped to fend off COVID-19

The study also takes into account two indicators known as SPAR (State Party Self-Assessment Annual Reporting) and IDVI (Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index). SPAR, which is intended to assess the capacity level of each country’s health system, can be unreliable since it is based solely on information reported by local authorities.

IDVI (see map 2) appears to be sounder since it is produced by international experts and takes into account a broad range of factors, such as the state of health systems, economic development, how previous epidemics were spread, and, a particularly crucial point in the case of the coronavirus, demographics and population density.

Based on these factors, countries best equipped to fend off COVID-19 include South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, while the most vulnerable include Somalia, Chad, the Central African Republic and Mauritania. But here again, there’s a silver lining: although vulnerable, these countries are not, so it seems, the most likely to have infected individuals arrive in their respective countries.

In the US, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have developed a COVID-19 global cases daily tracker that is updated on a very regular basis. According to their calculations, the Johannesburg airport is most likely to be the first place to ‘import’ the virus on the continent.

That said, their prediction is entirely based on statistics and has accordingly been met with sharp criticism by the Chinese government.

During a press conference on 5 February, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye had harsh words to say about the various scenarios devised by Western researchers and which, in his opinion, are pure speculation and only serve to spread panic.

This article was originally published on The Africa Report. Read here.

Digital tools help Africa mitigate climate disasters

[NAIROBI] Satellite imagery is helping African countries predict and mitigate extreme weather events and natural disasters such as floods, storms and famine, a conference has heard.

Extreme weather events are increasing on the continent, with droughts proving the deadliest, followed by floods, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. From 2000-2019, 46,000 people were killed and 337 million were affected by 1143 disasters on the continent.

In March 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira city, Mozambique and its heavy rains and strong winds caused flash flooding, hundreds of deaths, and massive destruction of property and crops.

Almost six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth dealt a hard blow to northern Mozambique. The two storms’ flooding affected close to 2.2 million people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“The digital tools … help African countries to know the real impact of calamities, thereby facilitating the [estimation of] affected compensation precisely.”

Mohamed Beavogui, The African Risk Capacity

At the African Risk Capacity conference held in Nairobi last week (13 February), digital strategies for climate and disaster risk management were highlighted.

‘‘The digital tools … help African countries to know the real impact of calamities, thereby facilitating the [estimation of] affected compensation precisely,’’ says Mohamed Beavogui, director-general of the African Risk Capacity, an agency formed by the African Union to help African governments improve their disaster risk management.

Beavogui adds that digital tools such as satellite imagery are used to analyse disasters for prompt action, especially from countries worst affected.

Beauogui tells SciDev.Net that the African Risk Capacity has drought risk software that helps countries quantify their disaster risk and monitor the impacts of droughts.

Mutembei Kainga, a senior meteorologist at the Kenya Meteorological Department, explains that there are several tools for modelling extreme weather conditions.

“These tools give a percentage of probability of occurrence,” says Kainga, adding that a value of 30 per cent means that a disaster is not likely, 60 per cent means it is likely and above 60 per cent means it is most likely.

Mutembei says that many professionals have developed mobile apps that predict weather and advise farmers about rain patterns, but there are still problems such as high illiteracy, poverty, and lack of technical know-how that negatively impact their use.

The African Risk Capacity has established a capacity building programme for African countries that are at risk of extreme weather due to climate change, to help them access a comprehensive disaster risk management and financing system, such as insurance and funds that can help in responding rapidly to disasters, he explains.

For example, the African Risk Capacity provided US$36.8 million to four African countries — Malawi, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal — that have seen at least 2.1 million people affected by drought, the conference heard.

Drought is the single most important natural hazard in Kenya, according to the African Risk Capacity. Between 2008 and 2011, drought caused damages and losses of an estimated US$12.1 billion.

James Oduor, chief executive officer of the National Drought Management Authority, says that supporting early monitoring of climate change risks improves preparations to deal with natural disasters.
Odour tells SciDev.Net that after assessing drought, there is a need to provide disaster risk financing.

But he adds that many existing disaster-risk instruments in Kenya are limited by inadequate funding and limited geographical coverage.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Facts & Figures: Disabilities in developing countries

Members of an association of former beggars turned hawkers supported by Access Bangladesh Foundation, in Dhaka. Copyright: Disability Rights Fund / Andy Isaacson (CC BY 2.0). This photo has been cropped

Stigma and varying definitions obscure the true scale of disability and its challenges in lower-income countries, writes Inga Vesper. 

An estimated 1 billion people – 15 per cent of the world’s population – live with a disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and 80 per cent of these are in developing countries. Yet people with disabilities have remained conspicuously absent from policies aimed at development and wellbeing, especially in the global South.

The Millennium Development Goals, which ran from 2000 to 2015, contained no specific goal for disabled people. The Sustainable Development Goals, to be met by 2030, still have no official disability goal, but 11 of their sub-goals explicitly mention disabilities, especially those on health, urban planning and monitoring.

In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but it took until November 2016 for the first official Disability Toolkit to be launched, this one aimed at Africa.

Efforts to understand the extent of disability and interventions required are marred by difficulties in data collection. In 2006, at the time the UN’s disability convention was adopted, the WHO thought that only 500 million people in the world were affected by disabling health problems — half as many as were identified six years later in the 2011 WHO World Report on Disability.

Defining disability

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that countries measure disability in different ways. While some nations take only physical ailments into account, others will include mental health in their data.

Definitions of disability vary. Blindness and visual impairment, for example, affects around 253 million people, according to the World Blind Union. But this ranges from people with partial sight who can perform a variety of jobs to total blindness. With good support, blind people can live independent and fulfilling lives, but without adequate training in independent living they may experience lifelong dependency.

While well-known and visible disabilities, such as missing limbs or blindness, receive much attention, chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and mental illness account for more than 66 per cent of all years lived with disability in developing countries, according to the WHO. Years lived with disability is a measure that takes into account that some disabilities start at different life stages and some, such as mental illness, may not be permanent.

Around one in four people will have a mental health condition at some point in their lives, and around 450 million people suffer from one at present, but again, these are less likely to be diagnosed in developing countries, where awareness around common illnesses such as depression remains low.

To try to create more clarity, the WHO has begun to collect more detailed data. According to its latest estimates, around 3 per cent of the world’s population — between 110 and 190 million adults — experience “severe disability”, meaning they cannot manage daily life without assistance.

Stigma and poverty

However, data collection on disability is also stymied by stigma. Mental health problems are especially likely to go unreported as sufferers and their families attempt to hide what they see as a shameful affliction. This is particularly true in areas where beliefs in witchcraft are common. Physical disabilities are harder to hide, but still considered disgraceful in many countries across the world.

This leads to a consistent underreporting of disabilities. In India, for example, just 2.2 per cent of the population said they had a disability in the country’s 2011 census. Reported rates vary widely between states but the World Health Survey estimates a disability prevalence among adults in India of nearly 25 per cent.

These data gaps are likely to fuel the mismanagement of disabilities, which has a direct impact on development. According to the UN’s 2018 Flagship Report on Disability and Development (p.100), more than a quarter of adolescents with disabilities do not attend secondary school, decreasing their employment opportunities, which often results in lifelong poverty. This is exacerbated by higher healthcare and living costs, especially in countries that struggle to provide social assistance and welfare. The WHO report estimates that being disabled in a developing country increases a person’s living costs by around nine to 14 per cent.

Gender matters

There is a gender aspect to this, too. A study published in the 2016 African Disability Rights yearbook found that across the African continent female infants with obvious signs of disability were more likely to be killed at birth. A report by the UK government on disability stigma identified social conceptions among East Africans that women and girls with disabilities lacked sexual agency of their own and would not report sexual abuse, leaving them vulnerable.

Data from India showed that an estimated 25 per cent of women with disabilities had been raped, while almost all had experienced physical violence. Meanwhile, the 2018 UN Flagship Report on Disability found that women with disabilities were less likely to receive ante- and post-natal care, putting their children at greater risk of disability, too.

Policy and action

Although the picture looks bleak, there are signs of change. In Africa, several countries, including Mozambique and Ethiopia have created national action plans to address the needs of people with disabilities. In addition, South Africa and Zambia have started official efforts to combat mental health problems, while many other African countries have incorporated better assistance for people with disabilities in their economic and social development plans.

The 2016 Toolkit on Disability for Africa sets out concrete strategies to battle stigma and discrimination. These include action within communities, but also law and policy reform. Furthermore, the toolkit calls for better data collection, more cooperation between neighbouring countries experiencing the same problems, and for wider South-South exchange of information.

According to the WHO, the rates of disability worldwide are increasing, partly as a result of ageing populations and increases in chronic health conditions. But at present, as data gaps persist, the true burden of disability in developing countries remains unclear.

By Inga Vesper

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Millennials are transforming African farming

Farming has an image problem in large parts of Africa. For many people there, it’s synonymous with poverty. So it’s hardly surprising parents don’t want their children to end up working the land.

Things may be starting to change, though. A growing number of African millennials are working to dispel the notion that all educated young people should aspire to professional desk jobs.

The understanding that agriculture is key to the continent’s long-term economic viability and growth is prompting an increasing number of African university graduates to choose careers in farming.

The African Development Bank (ADB) says these millennials are a driving force for agricultural transformation in Africa – and it’s spending $350 million to support them with training, advice and technology.

They’re known as “agripreneurs”, and they’re showing that growing the food the continent’s 256 million undernourished people desperately need can be a rewarding career choice.

Huge potential

Africa has 65% of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, an abundance of fresh water and about 300 days of sunshine each year, according to the ADB.

Yet in 2017, African nations spent almost $65 billion importing food. “This is unsustainable, irresponsible, and unaffordable. It is also completely unnecessary,” says ADB President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

Although Africa produces almost three-quarters of the world’s cocoa beans, for example, it receives just 2% of revenues from global sales of chocolate. Dr. Adesina says that if African farms were to achieve their potential, the continent could become a major food exporter, with significant economic benefits.


The rise of agripreneurs

Farming accounts for 60% of jobs in Africa and much of the work is undertaken by women. The Kenya-based African Women Agribusiness Network (AWAN) is working in 27 countries across the continent to give women access to credit to improve farms and raise production.

In Ghana, an organization called Guzakuza is helping women farmers to create jobs and produce healthy food for their communities. While in Tanzania, Nigeria and Ethiopia, the Oxfam-backed campaign Female Food Heroes is getting the message out with projects including a farming TV reality show that attracts millions of viewers.

Typical of the new generation of farmers is Richard Nunekpeku, founder of Ghana’s Anyako Farms. He quit his highly-paid job with Samsung in 2013 to set up a farm cooperative that uses technology to manage irrigation and harvesting.

We have to make farming sexy,” fellow Ghananian agripreneur Emmanuel Ansah-Amprofi recently told The New York Times.

Some of the ways agriculture is being transformed across Africa. Image: African Development Bank

Sowing the seeds of the future

African agri-tech is booming, according to a report published last year, with more than $19 million invested in the past two years and the number of start-ups more than doubling over the same period. Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are the top three countries for agricultural innovation.

Among the firms making an impact are Farmcrowdy, which raises finance for African farmers to buy land and expand production. Kitovu is an app that helps farmers to analyse the soil in order to boost yields before targeting buyers for surplus crops. And farmers can get someone else to plough their land using TrotroTractor, which matches tractor owners with people who cannot afford to buy their own.

With populations in many African countries predicted to double by 2050, innovations like these are not only helping to change the perception of farming – they could prove crucial to the continent’s future.


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