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Over 17,000 COVID-19 cases across Africa in just over two months

While South Africa has sub-Saharan Africa's most severe outbreak, West and Central Africa are of growing concern.

FILE: Cameroon has confirmed more than 800 cases, while Niger, Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea have reported a rapid rise in numbers this week. Picture: 123rf.

CAPE TOWN - Just over two months since COVID-19 was first detected in Africa, the disease has now spread to nearly every country on the continent, resulting in over 17,000 confirmed cases and around 900 deaths by Thursday.

While South Africa has sub-Saharan Africa's most severe outbreak, West and Central Africa are of growing concern.

Cameroon has confirmed more than 800 cases, while Niger, Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea have reported a rapid rise in numbers this week.

The World Health Organisation's regional director for Africa said eleven of the 17 countries with more than a hundred COVID-19 cases were in West and Central Africa.

Doctor Matshidiso Moeti said they were working with governments to better understand what's happening on the ground but added it was worrisome as countries in these subregions often had fragile health systems.

She said crucial medical equipment needed to respond to COVID-19 was lacking in many countries.

Moeti said the WHO had been working closely with the World Food Programme, the African Union, national governments and the Jack Ma Foundation to make sure vital supplies get to health workers in Africa.

In the past two days, she said eight countries had received medical equipment enough to allow health workers to treat 30,000 patients without putting themselves at risk.

However, with several borders closed and flights cancelled, ensuring countries receive deliveries of much-needed medical equipment has become increasingly difficult.