Although 2021 began with the spread of the vaccine, spreading a first glimmer of hope, the WHO states that in Africa the number of infections has continued to rise, and it seems that for the entire African continent a quantity of doses of vaccine equal to that intended for Italy alone.



On Mach 11th 2020, the WHO reported that the international outbreak of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 could be considered a pandemic.  Nearly 12 months have passed since that date, a year facing the effects of an epidemic that has changed all our lives.  Countries and entire continents are grappling with the most unpredictable and dramatic consequences of a virus that spreads rapidly among populations. Sanitary and healthcare systems have reached the brink of collapse; there have been countless victims; and introduction to severe restrictions on freedom of movement and social interaction. There have been grave consequences to the global economy, and many individuals of every age have faced difficult psychological repercussions.


With the New Year, the news of the arrival and roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine has indubitably provided a breath of fresh air, providing the first tentative answers regarding the end of the pandemic.  In the meantime, however, the virus continues to spread, and the data on the number of infections still is distressing.  In recent months an alarming rise in cases has been reported among African countries.  The WHO confirms cases in the continent have increased from mid-September 2020, with sharply rising peaks since the end of November.


Vaccine distribution in Africa


The equitable distribution of vaccines is already quite compromised by individual nations’ requests and differing resources.  For the whole African Union, approximately the same quantity of doses has been prepared as for all of Italy.  At the moment about 270 million doses are planned, enough to inoculate only 30% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.  A disarming fact.  Africa’s CDC (Africa Centers for Decease Control and Prevention), the public health agency of the African Union, has exposed critical issues from the first weeks of 2021, with a significant increase in new cases in some countries of the continent.  As of today, nearly 3,377,692 cases have been confirmed and 84,211 deaths. Considering these numbers to be totally reliable is complex in a continent where testing is still very low compared to the world’s average.  Added to this is inconsistent monitoring, which occurs at irregular levels and therefore does not reveal the true spread of the virus.


In a continent as vast as Africa, the national variable must also be considered. In some countries there is insufficient testing or limited data on tests to know what is being done, while in others access to prevention measures and data monitoring is more widespread. Analyzing a pandemic phenomenon in a vast, complex and multifaceted territory such as Africa necessarily involves a broader vision of the elements taken into consideration.


Poverty, political instability, internal conflicts, economic crisis and violations of human rights are among the components that further amplify a global health emergency such as that of COVID-19. Yet, despite the continent’s inherent frailties, the coronavirus death rate reported in Africa has been low compared to other parts of the world, despite the shortage and weakness of health infrastructure in many countries. Among the most accredited reasons – to date still without any scientific confirmation – to justify relatively low figures, there could bethe demographic aspect, that is a relatively young population, where more than 60% is under 25 years old, or the experiential factor, due to the various past and present epidemics in the countries.


INTERSOS Intervention to Combat the COVID-19 Virus in Africa




Nigeria is among the countries at an extremely critical level of pandemic health management. It ranks ninth in the world’s ranking for lowest number of tests performed. Hospital capacities are unable to cope with the most serious cases, to assist an increasing number of infected people, nor to provide treatment to the gravely ill with respirators or intensive care. There are 122,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths.  Internally displaced people are most at risk, especially in Borno State, a territory north of the country under constant attack by armed groups close to Boko Haram.  COVID-19 has worsened their living conditions. The possibilities of safeguarding themselves from contagion are almost non-existent: there is a lack of shelter, drinking water, and medical assistance.


INTERSOS personnel provide basic medical care, sanitary assistance and nutrition services in the territories of Bama, Dikwa, Ngala and Magumeri. Responding to the spread of the coronavirus, humanitarian workers started focusing activities on awareness and prevention of the virus, from emphasis on personal hygiene to education on the importance of social distancing and distribution of hygiene kits.  INTERSOS’s COVID-19 intervention in Nigeria is operational on a large scale, in part due to the circulation of mobile clinics and hospital support where COVID-19 screening and tests are carried out. In the Damasak area, INTERSOS is also contributing with the government  to the construction of the first formal camp for displaced persons in the city.




Since the end of 2020 and into the start of the New Year, an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases has been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of today, the WHO has confirmed nearly 21,000 cases and 661 deaths. INTERSOS has taken steps to activate new projects to deal with COVID-19 through tangible support to healthcare sites, through staff training on prevention and response measures to the virus. A grassroots campaign to raise awareness has been started in the communities where hygiene kits are also distributed.


By the end of 2020, approximately 254,283 people had received awareness-raising courses by our humanitarian workers. The use of telephone communication has become an essential tool for reaching as many people as possible, also providing them with constant psychosocial support in the areas of Kongolo, Nyunzu and Moba. The latest data from the last weeks of 2020 is useful to frame the type of intervention and the range of action of the organization. Out of 254,268 sensitized people, of which 82.45% are displaced in the areas of Kalemie and Nyemba, 100% reported having had access to adequate sanitation facilities in the medical centers they frequent. Among the other actions undertaken to expand activities and forms of awareness, are individual interventions carried out door to door, radio spots, sharing communication material to promote health and general protective hygiene measures against COVID-19.




Of all African countries, Cameroon is among the top ten with the highest number of positive cases registered. Today there are more than 29,000 infected by the CORONAVIRUS-19, and 462 deaths. One of the regions most affected is that of the Littoral and the far north. In the other areas of the country, the numbers are much lower, due to an insufficient number of tests and poor monitoring of the actual spread of the virus. In the whole territory there are only 15 laboratories with the capacity to carry out screening tests for COVID-19. Of these, none are in the areas in the south of the country, where the epidemic continues to spread out of control and where healthcare systems are in a precarious position.


In general, the ability to provide medical care across Cameroon is fragile compared to the worsening of the epidemic. With a total of 1,361 beds distributed among the various regions, the problematic nature of the healthcare context is evident. INTERSOS has been operative from the beginning of the emergency, providing hygienic materials and protective equipment in the north-west areas, where sessions to train health professionals on the nature and subsequent impact of the second wave of COVID-19 are organized. In the north of the country, especially in the areas of Kousseri and Maroua, more than 23,000 people were reached in December 2020. However, the humanitarian intervention, although crucial in a social and health condition such as the one that prevails in the Cameroonian territory, is not enough to be able to fill the absence of medical facilities, and health personnel who are often subject themselves to virus exposure, leading to a further reduction in medical availability.




As of today, there are more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 in Burkina Faso. INTERSOS, operative in the country since 2019, has adapted its activities to accommodate the restrictions imposed by the government and to the population’s new needs. Active humanitarian workers in the Dedougou protection project have launched awareness campaigns, with training and distribution of information material, as well as delivering basic hygiene kits to prevent contagion. Among those who receive the most assistance and support in the knowledge and prevention of the virus, are the many displaced people living in the Région du Nord, Région de la Boucle du Mouhoun and Région de l’Est. The territory of Burkina is in fact at the center of the growing Sahel crisis. Sources from IOM (World Organization of Migration) report that as of December 2020 about 1,069,361 displaced people, those fleeing violence and conflicts within the region.