Coronavirus in Africa and Ethiopia

Updated: 5 May 2020

Researchers are calling it catastrophic.

What will happen when the coronavirus hits the world’s poorest continent home to over 1.2 billion people?

Stay up-to-date on cases of coronavirus in Africa, Ethiopia’s response and what Ethiopiaid is doing to help during COVID-19. This page will be updated weekly and on the spot with breaking news.

> Current number of coronavirus cases
> How bad will coronavirus in Africa be?
> Ethiopia's response
> How Ethiopiaid is helping
> Ways you can help

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Cases of coronavirus in Africa and Ethiopia


Confirmed cases = 47,131

Number of deaths = 1,845

Infected countries = 53 out of 54


Confirmed cases = 145

Current as of 24:00 AEST, 5 May 2020. Weekly update.
Source: Africa News

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How bad will coronavirus in Africa be?

Researchers are predicting that COVID-19 in Africa could be far worse than anything seen yet. Here’s why.

Weak healthcare and sanitation

Many countries across Africa are faced with shortages of doctors, intensive care units and essential medicines – and that’s before the coronavirus even hits. On top of this, precautions like hand-washing are a luxury not everyone has access to. In Ethiopia, for instance, half the population lacks access to clean water.

“Ethiopia has made steady progress in the provision of health services over the past two decades. But nothing has prepared us for threats posed by COVID-19,” says Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

High rates of existing disease

Immune-compromising conditions like HIV and tuberculosis are high in Africa. In Ethiopia alone, 7,800 youth contract HIV every year. There is great concern they will make people far more vulnerable to the severe and fatal forms of COVID-19. 

Lockdowns leading to extreme poverty

Many African economies are not in a position to pay out stimulus packages to the same extent we are seeing in other countries like the US and Australia. Much of the workforce either won’t have work-from-home alternatives (as is the case in Ethiopia’s largely agricultural economy) or won’t have the Internet and hardware to do so. Lockdowns will push many people into extreme poverty - as many as 29 million according to WHO.

Communal living part of culture

“Our lifestyle is deeply communal, with extended families traditionally sharing the burdens and bounties of life together," says Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, adding that it makes social distancing very “hard to implement”. Plus, many African cities are overcrowded which makes them even more vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus.

Ethiopia has shortages in doctors, medicines and intensive care units even before COVID-19
Ethiopia has shortages in doctors, medicines and intensive care units even before COVID-19

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Ethiopia's response to coronavirus

Since reporting their first coronavirus case on March 13, Ethiopia has:

  • Closed schools, bars and nightclubs
  • Freed thousands of prisoners with minor offenses to ease overcrowding
  • Sprayed main streets in the capital with disinfectant
  • Postponed large gatherings such as sporting events and the August general elections
  • Quarantined all in-coming travellers for 14 days
  • Launched coronavirus public information campaigns
  • Begun “solidarity flights” to transport testing kits and personal protective equipment from China to other African countries.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also declared a State of Emergency on 8 April 2020. PM Ahmed has concerns that a harsher lockdown would be unrealistic given that many citizens don't have homes and that even those who do, many must work daily to make ends meet.

Ethiopian airports on high alert in wake of coronavirus
Ethiopian airports on high alert in wake of coronavirus

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How Ethiopiaid is helping during COVID-19

Good healthcare and education

Improving health, hygiene and education has always been a key part of Ethiopiaid’s work.

Through our field partners in Ethiopia, we distribute hygiene, water purification and sanitation supplies, trek out vaccines to remote areas, construct bathrooms and water access in disadvantaged communities, conduct rural health check-ups, deploy travelling health workers and teach vulnerable communities about health and hygiene.

All of these actions are helping to prepare and protect people in Ethiopia as COVID-19 hits.

Committed to helping the most vulnerable

Among the most vulnerable during COVID-19 are the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, and also women and children. In times of crisis, domestic violence, exploitation and child abuse spike, as happened time and again during the West Africa Ebola outbreaks between 2014 and 2016.

We are committed to making sure no one is left behind during the COVID-19 crisis.

That’s why through project partners such as Hospice Ethiopia (who provide holistic care for those who are terminally ill) and Association for Women’s Sanctuary & Development (who run safe shelters for women and girls suffering abuse) we are making sure  those who are most vulnerable can continue to seek the care and support they need during the pandemic.

The aftershocks of the coronavirus

COVID-19 will have enormous health, social and economic repercussions across Africa. Although Ethiopia has come a long way since the famine of the 1980s, it is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Now more than ever, people in Ethiopia will need humanitarian help to protect, recover and rebuild from COVID-19. 

Since 1989 Ethiopiaid has been there for the poorest and most marginalised in Ethiopia - and we will continue to be there during this crisis and beyond.

Rural health check up in Afar, north-eastern Ethiopia
Rural health check up in Afar, north-eastern Ethiopia

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How you can help during COVID-19

Pledge to protect

Pledge to give $10 a month during COVID-19 to help women and girls facing abuse survive the crisis.

Hear from our CEO

Hear from CEO Sharon Elliott in response to the coronavirus as it starts to hit Africa and Ethiopia.

Give where needed most

Provide immediate, urgent essentials like food, medicine and shelter for those in need or in danger.

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ABC News | At least 300,000 Africans expected to die with 29 million impoverished by pandemic, UN agency says | Published 18 April 2020

Ahmed, A. | Financial Times | If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all | Published 25 March 2020

Alfa Shaban, A.R. | Africa News | Coronavirus across Africa: 25,940 cases; 1,240 deaths; 6,968 recoveries | Published 23 April 2020

Al Jazeera | Ethiopia declares state of emergency to fight coronavirus | Published: 9 April 2020

Chopera, D. | Australian Strategic Policy Institute | Can Africa withstand COVID-19? | Published 27 March 2020

Thi, F | Anadolou Agency | COVID-19 consequences will be 'profound' in Africa: WHO | Published: 16 April 2020

UNICEF | Ethiopia Key Demographic Indicators

Whiting, N. & Handley, E. | ABC News | The world's most vulnerable countries could become the next coronavirus hotspots | Published 1 April 2020

Hero image by Alexey Demidov (Unsplash)


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