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Africa Faces Looming Health Disaster as COVID-19 Cases Surge, Delta Variant Spreads

Coronavirus infections have spiked again across Africa with the highly contagious Delta variant spreading to more countries. With low vaccination coverage across the continent, Project HOPE warns that the current COVID-19 wave in Africa is likely to be more devastating than previous surges.

Washington, D.C. (June 24, 2021) – Coronavirus infections have spiked again across Africa with the highly contagious Delta variant spreading to more countries. Several countries, primarily in Eastern and Southern Africa, are seeing their hospital isolation units filling up rapidly, often unable to provide adequate care. With low vaccination coverage across the continent, Project HOPE warns that the current COVID-19 wave in Africa is likely to be more devastating than previous surges. 

Steven Neri, Project HOPE’s Regional Director for Africa, issued the following statement: 

“To say the current surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths across several African countries is alarming is an understatement. The lack of vaccines across the continent highlights the gross inequity of access to public health interventions. We see wealthier nations returning closer to pre-pandemic normal. In sharp contrast, Africa is being hit by a brutal third wave with COVID-19 cases increasing by 20% week-on-week. Several of our staff and their relatives have been infected, and unfortunately, some of them were not able to recover and died. 

“What makes the third wave different from the first two waves is the presence of the Delta variant. The greater transmissibility and disease severity of the Delta variant is alarming, especially among a population of which less than one percent of the people have been partially vaccinated. A health disaster is looming. Yet, this could have been avoided if countries had received more vaccine doses quicker and sooner. Administration also needs to be accelerated fairly and at scale. 

“What happened recently in India is on everyone’s mind, and it is a frightening situation to be in. Health systems across the continent are extremely vulnerable and are at risk of becoming quickly overwhelmed. It is already the case in countries like South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and Uganda, where shortages of oxygen and ICU beds have been reported. 

“Lessons must be drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccine gap between high-income and middle- and low-income countries can no longer be ignored. Building vaccine development and manufacturing capacity in Africa is a critical part of the long-term solution. That’s why we welcome the recent announcements of the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa and of the A-CDC to lay the groundwork to enable regional manufacturing of vaccines. These are steps in the right direction, and until then, more vaccines must reach Africa and they must be administered rapidly.” 

Since 2020, Project HOPE has supported the Africa CDC by delivering two types of trainings to health care workers and frontline COVID-19 responders in over 30 countries. The trainings, “COVID-19 Preparedness and Response” and “COVID-19 vaccination,” are available in English, French, Arabic, and Portuguese. 

About Project HOPE 
With the mission to place power in the hands of local health workers to save lives around the world, Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization operating in more than 25 countries. Founded in 1958, we work side-by-side with local health systems to improve health and support community resilience. We work at the epicenter of today’s greatest health challenges, including infectious and chronic diseases; disasters and health crises; maternal, neonatal and child health; pandemic preparedness and response; mental health for health workers; and the policies that impact how health care is delivered. For more information, visit www.ProjectHOPE.org and follow us on Twitter @ProjectHOPEorg.  

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