DAKAR (AFP) – Africa is facing a dire shortage of intensive-care beds and ventilators, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement late on Thursday, as coronavirus cases rise across the continent.
In a statement, the body said that there were fewer than 5,000 beds in hospital intensive-care units across 43 African countries.
“This is about five beds per one million people in the reported countries compared to 4000 beds per one million people in Europe,” the statement said.
Critical COVID-19 cases are often referred to intensive-care units, where ventilators can help patients to breathe.
But the WHO said that in 41 African countries that reported data, fewer than 2,000 ventilators are available in the public health system.
“There is a critical shortage of treatment facilities for critical cases of COVID-19 in Africa,” said WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti.
The continent has registered over 11,500 cases to date, according to an AFP tally, of whom over 570 have died.
Rates of infection and fatalities from the novel coronavirus have so far been muted, however, compared to other parts of the world.
Many African governments have also responded to the threat by banning large gatherings and flights and, in some cases, locking down large cities.
Nigeria’s megalopolis Lagos is on lock-down, for example, as is South Africa’s economic hub, Johannesburg.
The WHO warned on Thursday that the virus is spreading beyond large cities into the countryside, where access to healthcare is often worse.