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COVID’s Aftershocks in Africa: The ‘wildly unfair’ vaccine problem


A roundup of the latest news, stats, and analysis of COVID-19’s impact in Africa. View our data tracker and sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and read on for more on COVID’s impact on food security in Africa. But first, what to look for at this week’s G7 meeting.

Top news

War-time footing: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, new Italian Prime Minister and G20 Chair Mario Draghi, and US President Joe Biden have all said we are at war with the virus. They are right: COVID-19 has killed more people than all wars combined since 1990. As G7 leaders meet for the first time since the pandemic started, and then head to the Munich Security Conference, ONE CEO Gayle Smith calls on them to make tough calls and kickstart a truly global response on vaccines and the global economy.

State of emergency: Food prices have soared in Sudan, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency. A subsidised loaf of bread has increased by 500% since the pandemic started. An unsubsidised loaf can cost up to 50 Sudanese pounds in Darfur. With the annual inflation reaching 269% in December, millions of people are struggling.

Biblical proportions: A new ONE data viz of Famine Early Warning Systems Network data shows food crises are prevalent in Ethiopia, Somalia, Niger, DRC, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Our partners, Virtual Doctors, who work in Zambia, told us the number of children presenting with symptoms of acute malnutrition is increasing rapidly. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index hit six-year highs in January, up 5% on prices in December.

1 billion excess vaccines: Western countries will have enough COVID vaccines left after vaccinating 100% of their populations to cover the entire population of Africa, according to new analysis from ONE. With the EU procuring 300 million Moderna doses this week, the number is closer to 1.25 billion. UN Chief António Guterres has called for a G20 taskforce to solve the “wildly unfair” problem. Emmanuel Macron has urged Europe to send vaccines to Africa now.

Money back guarantee: Drugmaker AstraZeneca is racing to adapt its COVID-19 vaccine to be effective against the newest variants of the disease. South Africa has announced that it will cease to use the AstraZeneca vaccine just one week after the first million doses arrived in the country and will instead use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Now for something special: Prime Minister Draghi has bragging rights when it comes to the economy: he’s widely credited with saving the Euro. Now in another crisis, he would do well to listen to African finance ministers, who last week called for the IMF to create $500 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). Rich countries should then allocate their share to poorer countries that need them.

Time to go big: So said US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen when she met with G7 finance ministers last week. When European finance ministers met this week to discuss their position, Italy, Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands supported SDRs and debt relief for poorer countries.

Careless talk costs lives: Tanzanian President John Magufuli continues to deny the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic and has forbidden officials from reporting on COVID related infections or deaths since May 2020.

No way out: With travel restrictions, many elites cannot travel outside the country for medical treatment. Will political leaders finally prioritize investing in public health systems after numerous deaths among the political elite?

Playing truant: Kids in South Sudan have missed one-sixth of their schooling because of COVID. Even before the pandemic, 90% of 10-year-olds in low-income countries could not read and understand a simple sentence. At ONE we’re campaigning to avert a learning catastrophe.

The numbers

  • 22% increase in Ugandan coffee exports for 2020, despite the pandemic.
  • 23 times: the average Briton’s clout at the IMF vs the average Nigerian’s.
  • 3 countries — Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Equatorial Guinea — received shipments from China’s Sinopharm vaccine.

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