The suppressed crisis in the global south

When we talk about the global consequences of Corona, the focus is mostly on the rich nations of the global north. This is negligent. The potentially harshest consequences of the pandemic are not threatening the rich nations, but the poor nations of the global south, especially Africa. At the same time, the African continent is one of the areas in which Covid-19 is an insignificant marginal phenomenon. Across the continent, with a population of 1.3 billion, only half as many people have died at or with Covid-19 as in The UK. The dramatic consequences of the pandemic are indirect consequences and, strictly speaking, not the consequences of the disease at all, but the consequences of the measures. The crisis is home-made and solutions are not in sight. This is also shown by the UN Special Summit on the Corona crisis. The main issue here will be a ‘fair’ distribution of vaccines, but not the pressing question of how Africa should recover from the massive consequences of the measures. Dependence on the West will be the result and thus continue to overexploit the land, murder by paid despots on man and on ward, refugees will drown in the Middle Ages. This will secure the job of Frontex’s black minions.

Two billion people worldwide are affected by malnutrition. That is a quarter of the world’s population. Last year, 690 million people worldwide starved. trend has been rising for five years. According to an estimate by the World Food Organization (FAO), there will be more than 840 million in ten years' time – and this estimate comes from “pre-Corona times”. The UN currently estimates that the pandemic alone will increase the number of hungry people by 83 to 132 million people. Two-thirds of this is in the African continent or, to be more precise, sub-Saharan Africa.

These figures are in stark contrast to the statistics on the pandemic. For example, the whole of sub-Saharan Africa has fewer than 33,000 people who have died so far at or with Covid-19. By the way, two thirds of the deaths are in comparatively developed South Africa. During the same period, around six million children on the continent died of malnutrition and around 300,000 children died of malaria. Compared to these epic threats and regional deaths such as HIV, dysentery, and tuberculosis, Covid-19 is indeed a marginal marginal problem in Africa. But here we are talking about the disease and not about the political reaction to it.

The reason for these reactions was a “horror forecast” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March. At the time, the WHO predicted “uncontrollable chains of infection, millions of deaths, and a breakdown of the health system” for the continent, and urged governments to take defensive action. They were hit. Countries such as Zimbabwe and Kenya imposed hard lockdowns, and the consequences were devastating.

To understand this as a European, it is worth taking a little excursion about African economies. About three-quarters of workers in sub-Saharan Africa do so-called informal work. They hire themselves as small farmers in the village community, produce goods independently, offer small services, transport goods or sell goods on local markets or on the roadside. It is certainly superfluous to mention that these informal jobs have no social security. As soon as the economic cycle is interrupted by curfews, contact and travel bans and bans on markets, these people are faced with nothing. And so it came as it had to come.

Small farmers no longer found a way to sell their products through markets, and in many places they could not find a way to get seeds for the next sowing. Millions of livestock farmers in the Sahel have been prevented by the lockdown from feeding their animals to traditional pastures. Millions of migrant workers became unemployed overnight. This did not allow you to order fields. As a result, goods and food became scarce in the cities, prices rose and at the same time incomes fell; after all, long-distance trade also stalled, the borders were closed and with tourism one of the few sources of foreign exchange also broke away. In addition, many state and international aid projects have been largely eliminated. The details can be found in a position paper of numerous German aid organisations.

As if this were not bad enough, the indirect consequences of the lockdown in other areas exacerbated the situation. For example, the lockdown measures and logistical problems have forced the nationwide shutdown of medical therapy and prophylaxis programmes for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Cholera, diphtheria and typhoid could return. The aid agencies' position paper states that “a good two-thirds of all regular programmes, such as the fight against neglected (tropical) diseases, immunisation campaigns, pregnancy screening, long-term TB, HIV and chronic diseases, and access to contraception, had to be interrupted or significantly restricted as a result of pandemic events”. Disruption of malaria programs alone could result in up to 100,000 additional deaths per year, as the WHO fears – three times the number of Covid-19 victims. It is impossible to estimate in a serious way how large the blood toll of human lives will be for all the collateral damage of the measures in Africa. What is certain is that he is disproportionate to the direct victims of Covid-19.

“Why is there no outcry? Why are we sounding so much alarm about Covid-19 or Ebola? But it seems so normal that thousands of children die of malaria every year.” Matshidiso Moeti

And this is not just about death figures, but about what Development Minister Gerd Müller rightly called a “lost generation.” Even before Corona, 263 million school-age children were unable to attend school. This summer’s lockdowns brought that number to 1.5 billion, affecting 185 countries worldwide. In Africa in particular, many of these children have been forced to work, married or expelled in order to feed a mouth less. “And with each month, there is a growing likelihood that they will never return to school,” Müller said. In a few months, the small successes, which could be achieved painstakingly through decades of construction work, were destroyed. The setback for the continent is greater than bare figures might quantify.

How did it get this far? The main culprit in this development is probably the WHO, which, with its counterfactual disaster scenario, has driven countries to take action that, in a sober view of things, was completely excessive. Even the first reliable studies from China should have led to a warning, as they clearly stated that Covid-19 is a very specific disease, which is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with certain pre-existing conditions, but is usually harmless for younger people. According to the latest RKI report, the current median age of those who died at or with Covid-19 in Germany is 83. However, only three percent of Africans are over 65 years of age. Over-80s are an exotic fringe phenomenon. The important risk factors of obesity, cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes are also very rare in Africa. Covid-19 is a disease that is particularly threatening to ageing, affluent societies with their civilizational diseases. Two hundred years ago, no one in Europe would have noticed this disease either. The same applies to today’s Africa with its “Youth Bulge”. A country like Uganda has a median age of 15.8 years – in Germany it is 47.1 years.

In addition, the tropical climate, an everyday life that usually takes place in the fresh air, and the comparatively low mobility of the typical spread of cold viruses are not exactly conducive. All of this was, of course, known in March. All the more incomprehensible is the disastrous misreporting of the WHO. In the meantime, most African states have long since relaxed their lockdowns, but the long-term consequences are only now making themselves felt. 2020 will be the first year in 25 years in which the continent’s economy is shrinking. This is a single disaster for a continent trapped in the demographic trap.

For the much-vaunted world community, one of the most important tasks would now be to at least alleviate these consequences through ambitious aid programmes. Unfortunately, however, there is no sign of this. On the contrary. At the UN special summit, which was convened specifically on these issues, European perspectives once again dominate the debate. And for Europe, which is prone to hysteria when it comes to corona, it seems to be particularly important that Africa also benefits from our experimental vaccines. The pharmaceutical companies are particularly pleased about this.

Whether a Covid-19 vaccine programme makes any sense in Africa is a very different matter. Antibody studies in many African countries have shown that between 10% and 43% of the population had already gone through an infection there. All studies assume an extremely low mortality rate compared to Europe. For example, studies suggest that in Mozambique, with its nearly 30 million inhabitants, up to 10% of the population of Covid-19 has already gone through. Certainly, the death toll must also be marked with a question mark and it is to be assumed that the figure is unclear. However, there have been no real accumulations of symptomatic cases throughout Africa.

The large amount of money that a vaccination programme would devour for the whole continent would be better invested elsewhere, especially in Africa. But let us think a little further and become sarcastic: where do the Western governments want to go with the billions of vaccine doses already paid for, when the willingness to vaccinate is not as great as assumed? It is a good thing to give the ‘disposal’ a humanitarian coat. Whether this will help Africa does not matter. But that has always been the case.