By Vanessa Akoth

Africa has recorded a 43% increase in COVID-19 deaths according to the most recent data released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to WHO, fatalities increased from 4384 in the previous week to 6273 in the week ending on 11th July. Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Uganda and Tunisia accounted for 83% of new death cases recorded in Africa in the past week.

The surge being experienced is as a result of key health measures and the increase in variants spread. “Deaths have climbed steeply for the past five weeks. This is a clear warning sign that hospitals in the most impacted countries are reaching a breaking point,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

As a result of the surge, she said, Africa is experiencing shortages in health workers, supplies and infrastructures needed to provide care for the severely ill COVID-19 patients.

At least six countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa and Zambia, among others are facing shortages in intensive care unit beds while 10 countries have recorded an increase in hospital admissions. Africa is still in dire need of medical oxygen supply as there has been a 50% spike in oxygen demand compared to the same period in 2020.

These are the results of WHO’s assessment in the six countries facing a resurgence where it was found that only 27% of medical oxygen needed is produced.

Addressing the issue on insufficient oxygen supply, Dr. Moeti said “The number one priority for African countries is boosting oxygen production to give critically ill patients a fighting chance.’ She said effective treatment was the last line of defense against COVID-19 and it shouldn’t be allowed to crumble.

Vaccine scarcity and the high variants spread significantly continue to undermine Africa’s ability to manage the morbidity and death rates being recorded. Overall, the Delta variant remains to be the most contagious form of COVID-19 variant, having been reported in 21 countries. Meanwhile, the Alpha and Beta variants have been registered by 35 and 30 countries respectively.

To cope with the death surge, around 190 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will be needed to fully vaccinate 10% of Africans by September 2021, with around 750 million more doses needed to fully vaccinate 30% by 2021. Vaccines supplies are expected in the coming weeks, she affirmed.