Wednesday, 29th June 2022

West Africa has recorded its highest number of COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began as several countries grapple with outbreaks of cholera, Ebola Virus Disease and Marburg Virus Disease that threaten to further strain the already stretched emergency response capacity in the region.

According to the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 fatalities in West Africa over the past four weeks increased by 193% from 348 in the previous four weeks to 1018 in the week ending on 15 August.

Although the case fatality ratio, or the proportion of people diagnosed with the disease who have died, stands at 1.4%—below the continental average of 2.5%—it is higher than the previous two waves in the sub-region, a sign that health systems are feeling the strain of a heavy caseload. While new cases in West Africa have dropped this week, they were surging for eight consecutive weeks.

Overall Africa recorded over 244 000 new cases in the week ending on 15 August, an 11% drop from the week before and a second straight week of declining cases. However, nine out of 23 countries experiencing a resurgence are in West Africa. Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria are experiencing a surge in cases and all three countries are tackling other outbreaks.

West Africa health systems are even more fragile than those in other sub-regions. A World Health Organisation assessment of the functionality of health systems in West Africa found that they were 21% lower than in Southern Africa,

“We are particularly concerned about West Africa and we can expect the pressure of COVID-19 to hit health services harder and faster,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “In addition to the strain of COVID-19, comes Ebola and other outbreaks. Fighting multiple outbreaks is a complex challenge.”


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