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Spread of Coronavirus threatens Africa

Spread of Coronavirus threatens Africa

By Chris Sugden
April 9, 2020

Though the spread of the virus in Africa is behind that of Europe or North America, the effect, especially in townships, slums and camps is predicted to be catastrophic because so many people live so closely in conditions that are already unhygienic. Barnabas Fund, who this week have established the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network, reports from their networks:


Pastor Campos Afonso's report from churches in Angola is repeated throughout the continent where most states are in lockdown. The President of Angola declared a quarantine and State of Emergency from 27 March-11 April. All church meetings are closed. Pastors, leaders and members are observing the measures in their homes to combat the virus from spreading.

If the lockdown situation of COVID-19 continues it will affect the 2020 harvest because people will not be able to work in the fields. The lockdown means a shortage of work, tools and transport to take products from the countryside to the cities.

Lack of transport also means people cannot get from the cities to work on their family land to gather the harvest. Products collected this year will rot in the fields. New seeds will be in short supply for cultivation in the next year.

People are consuming the products that were being reserved as seeds for planting in 20202021 after having sold the December and January production. Most have nothing to eat in this period of isolation. Many could die of hunger instead of being killed by COVID-19. Locals say that church intervention is needed to help the most vulnerable people and poor Christians.

However, the Government call to the churches to help in this situation cannot be fulfilled. The support that the Government is providing in the Elderly and Children Centres is not enough and does not cover everyone in need at this time of COVID-19. Food insecurity leads people not to
observe quarantine at home, since they do not have food that can allow them to stay at home without going outside. People lack hygienic material to implement measures to prevent COVID19 like gloves, masks, ice, alcohol, bleach, soap and running water.

Christians encourage one another by seeking to respect government orders and praying for God's intervention to stop this pandemic. Many individuals and philanthropic organisations dedicated to helping poor Christian and vulnerable people in providing emergency aid to save lives in the face of this world pandemic are a huge source of encouragement. They are conscious that they can only be believers and able to help if they are alive.


In Zambia (which has reported 39 cases and one death) Christians report that funds from other religious groups are being deployed to assist combatting the Coronavirus with detrimental comments about the non-involvement of the churches so far. Global Partners International, a team from Northmead Pentecostal Assembly, is reaching churches with messages about hygiene and staying safe.

They met with the Government on Monday 6 April and hope to deploy aid from the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network so as to counter this propaganda.

South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda

South Africa entered its eleventh day of shutdown last Monday. Some 34,000 people have been tested with 1,585 confirmed cases and seven deaths reported. Radio stations are disseminating advice and information. Churches have been asked to join local emergency committees and have been invited to contact President Cyril Ramaphosa to share the problems they are facing since they have well organised structures in the communities.

Many labourers in South Africa are from Zimbabwe and chaos is reported at border posts as they try to return home. The Dutch Reformed Church plans to assist Zimbabwe where 50 per cent of the population is at famine level. However drivers and lorries that cross the border are currently quarantined for two weeks.

With a 350-bed pop-up hospital, converted snorkeling masks and 3D-printed face shields, grass-roots initiatives are springing up. Nigeria reports 190 cases, but the figure is increasing daily. Fear and hunger prevail. In 'shut down' Lagos 'hoodlums' are reported to be roaming the streets and demanding food. In Cameroon, 306 people are confined, 10 have recovered and eight have died. But people are still allowed to gather in groups of less than 50 in people's homes.

In Ghana 240 have contracted the virus, 31 recovered and five died. Pentecostal churches have contributed £15,000 to Ghana's medical services. Uganda (which has reported 45 cases) is under total lockdown. With the support of their Archbishop, they believe that church structures from the province to the dioceses can implement and monitor supplies and evaluate their impact and coverage. Worst hit are those in the villages who cannot travel to work in the towns and cities as transport is closed down.

Canon Dr Chris Sugden is a canon of Jos diocese Nigeria and Sunyani Diocese Ghana. He is secretary of the Africa Coronavirus relief committee of GAFCON with Barnabas Fund

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