Coronavirus infection cases rocket in locust-infested East Africa and Pakistan
The rise of coronavirus cases across Pakistan and East Africa in recent weeks is set to heighten the emergency in the already locust-plagued regions, where crops and livelihoods have been devastated.
Across Africa there are 1,184 recorded cases, 61 of which are in East Africa, a region already severely impacted by the locusts and food security crisis. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Africa must “wake up” and “prepare for the worst” against the coronavirus pandemic. The region’s death toll is 47.
A number of East African countries have implemented measures against coronavirus outbreaks. Rwanda has banned all flights from 20 March, closed markets and instructed many citizens to work from home. Both Rwanda and Uganda announced plans to close borders on 21 March. Zambia closed parliament and schools, and Kenya, a majority Christian country, suspended some church meetings.
There has been a surge in coronavirus cases across Pakistan, with 875 infected cases and six deaths recorded. The federal government has deployed the army to help the country cope with the crisis, as partial and complete lockdowns commenced in all provinces for 14 days.
Sindh, one of the poorest rural regions of Pakistan and already devastated by a desert locust invasion this year, is hardest hit by the pandemic, as travellers return from coronavirus-stricken Iran. Recorded cases stood at 394 ,in Sindh alone, on 23 March .
Dr. Naseem Salahuddin, Head of Infectious Diseases at Indus Hospital, Karachi, capital city of Sindh province, said few hospitals are equipped to handle coronavirus cases. The influx of infected patients has caused many hospitals to close their doors.
The UN has warned of an impending food crisis in East Africa and a state of emergency is continuing in south-west Pakistan. Serious concern is growing for Christians in affected regions, many of whom already face marginalisation and persecution for their faith.