Coroners in Tunisia – which is experiencing its fourth and worst wave of the COVID-19 pandemic – have run out of space, meaning the dead are often left in overcrowded hospital rooms with still-suffering patients for 24 hours. The morgues are full, says the Ministry of Health. Even the dead apparently suffer.
“We are in a catastrophic situation … the boat is sinking,” Tunisian Health Minister spokesman Nisaf Ben Alaya told reporters this week. “The health care system collapsed, we can only find a bed in hospitals with great difficulty. We struggle to provide oxygen … Doctors suffer from unprecedented fatigue. ”
Tunisia, in northern Africa, has 4 percent of its citizens fully vaccinated, more than double the average across the continent, with the Delta variant leveling entire cities. Vaccines delivered via COVAX, donated from the world̵
“Alarm bells must go off,” said Tom Kenyon, Chief Health Officer at Project HOPE and former director of the Center for Global Health at the US CDC CNBC. “Given the horrors we just saw in India, it should be cause for concern and stimulate action.” Kenyon predicts that Africa’s worst case scenario will soon be worse than Asia’s.
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that the second largest continent in the world has suffered its “worst pandemic week ever,” recording 251,000 new infections, up 20 percent from the week before and 12 percent up from the worst of the last wave of January. Now more than 16 African countries, including some of the poorest like Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal, are reporting deadly increases. In some rural areas, there are still no tests available, let alone vaccines.
“A few weeks ago, we expected this milestone to be reached soon, and it brings me no joy to be right,” said WHO Regional Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti at a press conference on Thursday. “For Africa, the worst has not yet come. The end of this strong rise is still weeks away. Cases now double every 18 days compared to every 21 days just one week ago. ”
The tip of the iceberg has more to do with wealthy nations holding on to promised vaccines than the Delta variant, which authorities fear could mutate into a stronger African variant.
Only 66 million doses of vaccines have been delivered to the whole of Africa, which has a population of 1.3 billion. In comparison, more than 332 million shots have been administered in the United States with a population of 372 million. Had even a quarter of the continent’s people been vaccinated, things could have been different, Moeti said. But it is not possible to turn the clock back now.
“Vaccine nationalism, in which a handful of nations have taken the lead, is morally indefensible and an ineffective public health strategy,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO this week, blaming selfish nations for the “wave of death” now swirling across Africa.