A stark lack of testing in many African countries has kept officials from being able to track the pandemic, prompting fears that a recent surge in cases across the continent may be just the “tip of the iceberg,” according to the International Rescue Committee.
Each country in Africa where the committee works has conducted fewer than 8,000 tests per million people, the group said. By contrast, Britain has conducted 205,782 tests per million, the United Arab Emirates 472,590 per million, and Singapore 199,904 per million, the committee said.
The committee cited Tanzania (63 tests per million), Niger (373 tests per million), Chad (383 tests per million), Democratic Republic of Congo (467 tests per million) and Burundi (563 tests per million) as having the lowest testing rates among the African countries where it works.
The committee, a global humanitarian aid organization, said that testing in many African countries was falling far short of the rate of at least one test per 1,000 people per week recommended by the World Health Organization.
The organization said many African nations needed international support to increase their testing capacity or the continent could face “an undetected and uncontrolled spread — and a response fighting with a hand tied behind its back.”
“The testing shortfalls make it nearly impossible to understand the extent of the pandemic — let alone put measures in place to stop it,” Stacey Mearns, a senior technical adviser on emergency health at the committee, said in a statement.
Reporting was contributed by Liz Alderman, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Kate Conger, Robert Gebeloff, Michael Levenson, Eshe Nelson, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Matt Phillips, Austin Ramzy, Motoko Rich, Eliza Shapiro, Katie Thomas, Neil Vigdor, Mihir Zaveri.