Africa Has a Troubling Shortage of Ventilators, Masks and Soap
The glaring lack of adequate medical resources is becoming increasingly pronounced as developing nations try to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak.
In Africa, for example, there are fewer than 2,000 working ventilators in public hospitals across 41 African countries, the World Health Organization says, compared with more than 170,000 in the U.S., as The New York Times reported.
Ten countries in Africa have none at all.
Somalia's Health Ministry has none. The Central African Republic has three. South Sudan has four, which is one fewer than the number of vice presidents it has. Liberia has five. Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million, has fewer than 100, as The Washington Post reported.
The paltry number of ventilators across the continent means that patients who appear at hospitals with the most severe acute respiratory symptoms from the novel coronavirus have little chance of surviving. While the number of ventilators is expected to increase as donations trickle in, few doctors across the continent have had the extensive training necessary to use them. Also, the ventilators usually require an anesthesiologist to intubate patients, or at least supervise the process, but anesthesiologists are scarce in Africa, according to The Washington Post.
The shortage of ventilators, training and specialists required to make them functional is only part of the massive shortage in resources that poorer countries face during the global pandemic. Health officials have also warned about a dire shortage of oxygen and masks. Even soap and water are in short supply.
According to the United Nations, only 15 percent of sub-Saharan Africans had access to basic hand-washing facilities in 2015. In Liberia, UN numbers showed that in 2017, 97 percent of homes did not have access to soap and clean water, according to The New York Times.
"The things that people need are simple things," said Kalipso Chalkidou, the director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development, a research group, as The New York Times reported. "Not high-tech things."
As of Saturday, there were more than 21,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,000 deaths across the continent. The World Health Organization said that the virus appears to be spreading away from Africa's capital cities. The UN Economic Commission for Africa warned that 300,000 could die and called for a $100 billion safety net for the continent, including halting external debt payments, as the BBC reported.
"Anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19, depending on the intervention measures taken to stop the spread," the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said in a report released Friday.
The problem, according to the UN agency, rests partly with the layout and infrastructure of some of Africa's biggest cities, where the majority of the urban population lives in overcrowded neighborhoods without reliable access to hand-washing facilities, as NPR reported.
"We are now failing. Let me use that word deliberately," said Mahad Hassan, one of Somalia's few epidemiologists and a member of the government's coronavirus task force, as The Washington Post reported. "At our main treatment center, almost nothing is there. Last time I visited, beds, only beds. No oxygen, no ventilators."
Liberia's minister of information explained to The New York Times that attempts to procure medical equipment run into problems like wealthier countries hoarding supplies, bidding against other governments, and price gouging by suppliers.
"We keep fighting with our neighbors and the big countries. Even having a contract is not a guarantee we're going to get a supply," Eugene Nagbe, the minister of information said. One vendor, after entering a contract, turned around and raised the price from the agreed-upon $15,000 per ventilator to $24,000, he added, as The New York Times reported.
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The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati
Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, the biggest recorded earthquake in Japanese history hit the country's northeast coast. It was followed by a tsunami that traveled up to 6 miles inland, reaching heights of over 140 feet in some areas and sweeping entire towns away in seconds.
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Nuclear power generates about 10% of the world's electricity (TWh = terawatt-hours). About 50 new plants are under construction, but many operating plants are aging. World Nuclear Association / CC BY-ND
<div id="07c42" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac2be7bdc1a748c089d24d27f01992a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366694917045690369" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🇸🇪 Nuclear Safety statement in IAEA BoG: Important safety upgrades introduced at 6 remaining nuclear power stations… https://t.co/FrgHv4N4UL</div> — SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪 (@SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪)<a href="https://twitter.com/SwedenUN_Vienna/statuses/1366694917045690369">1614680434.0</a></blockquote></div>
Author Najmedin Meshkati holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Najmedin Meshkati / CC BY-ND
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"Watch. Connect. Take Action."
These words are the invitation and mandate of the WaterBear Network, a free film-streaming platform that launched in November of 2020. Its goal is to turn inspirational images of the natural world into actions to save it.
WaterBear CEO Ellen Windemuth uses films to inspire planet-positive actions. WaterBear
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By Kenny Stancil
Amid the ongoing climate emergency and the devastating coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone as well as an economic meltdown that has left millions of people unemployed, the Sunrise Movement on Thursday launched its "Good Jobs for All" campaign to demand that lawmakers pursue a robust recovery that guarantees a good job to anyone who wants one and puts the country on a path toward a Green New Deal.
<div id="c7fe3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5664692fdfd187db01eff5ac2787c564"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1367650177436311562" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">We’re coming together to fight for each other and guarantee #GoodJobsForAll Join us: https://t.co/MoJhmlzoaS https://t.co/IAPa8DeeLR</div> — Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)<a href="https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/statuses/1367650177436311562">1614908186.0</a></blockquote></div>
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bpperry / Getty Images
By Tara Lohan
Each year the amount of plastic swirling in ocean gyres and surfing the tide toward coastal beaches seems to increase. So too does the amount of plastic particles being consumed by fish — including species that help feed billions of people around the world.
Blue shark at Cape Point, South Africa, 2016. Steve Woods / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0