Mar 30, 2020
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
The Covid-19 epidemic broke out in 42 of Africa’s 54 countries on March 22. Introduced by travelers from Europe, the disease apparently spread. Authorities across the continent took measures to quarantine or close public places.
The virus could wreak incomparably more havoc in Africa than in Europe. Poverty makes sheltering at home and quarantining impossible, because a large proportion of the urban population lives from day to day, with side jobs only. The virus can be stopped from spreading by washing hands. But of Africa’s 1.3 billion people, some 320 million live without clean water. Sixty percent of the 470 million Africans living in cities are crowded into slums in dire need of water service.
African countries lack medical equipment. In West Africa, there is only one hospital bed per three thousand two hundred inhabitants, compared to twenty times that many in France. The lack of equipment makes it impossible to assist patients in respiratory distress. Hospitalization or even contacting a doctor is impossible for the vast majority of Africans, because they are poor. And how to help the millions of internally displaced persons and migrants crowded into refugee camps? France’s soldiers in West Africa have equipment and logistics but will be of no help.
“Africa must prepare for the worst,” the Director General of the World Health Organization said. The poverty to which the great imperialist powers condemned Africa threatens to increase the severity of the disease.
It will wreak more havoc in Africa because for more than a century the African continent has been plundered and cut up by these powers and by the corporations to get raw materials and agricultural products, with the complicity of local strongmen and dictators.