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AU warns cost of COVID-19 pandemic could be long-lasting in Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | XINHUA | The impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent could be long-lasting, a senior African Union (AU) Commission official stressed on Wednesday.

“The consequences of the pandemic could be long-lasting,” an AU statement issued on Wednesday quoted Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, as saying, as he emphasized the need to exert concerted efforts across various sectors in order to effectively minimize the impacts of the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the continent reached 976,208 as the death toll from the pandemic also rose to 21,050, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

The Africa CDC, a specialized healthcare agency of the 55-member pan-African bloc, further noted that some 651,455 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered across the continent so far.

“The AU will continue to support governments to make extremely difficult choices to address the impact of COVID-19 across the continent,” the AU Peace and Security Commissioner said following the launch of a report entitled “The Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on Governance, Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa.”

The brief identifies several emerging impacts of COVID-19 in the Horn of Africa, in particular, and the African continent, in general, such as delayed electoral processes and political reforms, weakened service delivery, increased poverty, and a likely increase in regional insecurity.

“With at least 28 million people experiencing food insecurity before the pandemic, COVID-19 is expected to deepen food insecurity by at least 19 percent in the Horn of Africa region,” the report read.

The report also stressed that extremist groups such as Al Shabaab have exploited the pandemic by using misinformation and to provide basic services in affected areas, further challenging governance and stability.

The impact of COVID-19 on women and young girls was also highlighted as a key area for gender-relevant intervention. Women make up 70 percent of global frontline health workers and most informal traders in Africa are women, it was noted.

“These past months of responding to COVID-19 have emphasized the need to make peace and security a priority in Africa especially in fragile communities,” Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Deputy Director of the Africa CDC, said during the report launching.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the report also concluded with renewed hope and opportunities for African governments, regional institutions, civil society and citizens to support grassroots solutions for conflict prevention, strengthen rapid and collective fundraising for interventions, and explore the potential for intra-African trade among other innovative and context-specific solutions.

The AU, which noted that the current mortality rate “remains moderately low” in Africa as compared with the rest of the world, also stressed that testing could be further improved to reach the recommended target of 1.3 million tests per month per region.

Amid the spread of the pandemic, about 34 African countries are under full border closure due to concerns related to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Africa, according to the latest report from the Africa CDC.

The Africa CDC had also recently warned African countries to brace for possible “acute shortage” of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment in the near future.

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