Current count in Kenya as of Thursday, June 4: 2,127 confirmed cases, 78 deaths, and 85,058 people tested for the virus. This is an increase in the last week of 722 confirmed cases, 30 deaths, and 14,886 more people tested (2,127 per day). Kenya has 44 cases and 1 death per million people while the United States has 5,815 cases and 333 deaths per million people. 


After last week where I covered the Eastern Africa countries that are doing well in controlling Covid-19 (see here), today I want to report on those Eastern Africa countries that, in addition to Tanzania which I previously covered (see here), are doing poorly, namely, Somalia, South Sudan, and Burundi.

Somalia: Cases 2,204, deaths 79, tests – not recorded.

As you can see from the line on the chart above for Somalia (green), the number of cases continues to increase at a steady, rapid rate. This is not at all surprising as Somalia will have great difficulty in containing the virus. The country has not had a decently functioning government since the overthrow of its dictator, Said Barre, in 1993, 27 years ago. Since 2006 there was been a civil war between the recognized government and al-Shabaab. While the government controls the cities, much of the countryside is controlled by al-Shabaab. When the government proposed a truce with al-Shabaab so that the virus could be contained, al-Shabaab refused. Therefore there is no data nor probably any active control measures on that part of the country controlled by al-Shabaab.

Even in the territory controlled by the government, there is no indication of how much testing has been done, but certainly if there were more testing, the number of positive cases would substantially increase.

During Ramadan when mosques were closed in Kenya, many Kenyan Somali crossed the border to pray in mosques in Somalia which were still open. Some of these Kenyan Somali then tested positive for Covid-19. This would imply that there are numerous cases in the rural areas adjacent to Kenya. As a result Kenya closed its long border with Somalia.

Moreover Somalia is now experiencing extensive flooding. The locust invasion there is expanding without significant preventative measures as the government does not control much of the countryside where the locusts are breeding.

Under the present conditions Covid-19 can only spread at an alarming rate in Somalia. Moreover with its porous borders with Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti – all occupied by ethnic Somali – infections are likely to spill past its borders into its neighbors. This is the country in eastern Africa most likely to confirm the dire predictions made by western experts for African countries.

South Sudan: Cases 994, deaths 10, tests 3,456. Note from the chart above that South Sudan has not updated its statistics for the last 8 days.

While South Sudan recorded its first positive case of Covid-19 almost a month after Kenya, the rise in the number of cases has been more rapid than even Somalia. See red line on chart above. Note the flat lines. These are due to the fact that no reports were made on these days. The reported number of tests at 3,456 is also extremely low.

South Sudan only received its independence from Sudan in 2011, nine years ago. During much of this time there has been a civil war in the country. After an estimated 400,000 deaths and millions displaced both within the country and as refugees, a peace agreement was finally reached early this year. The government is barely functioning.

The agreement includes five vice-presidents. Three of these vice-presidents have confirmed Covid-19 cases. Moreover two ministers and another former minister have tested positive for the virus. This would imply a major outbreak of the disease, particularly in the capital of Juba. There is a proposal to put the country in lockdown and then test everyone in Juba. The health care system in the country is weak and the camps for the large number of displaced people are likely breeding places for the disease. With an extremely weak government, the prognosis for South Sudan to be able to contain the virus is poor.

The conclusion from the examples of Somalia and South Sudan is that a country that is in civil war and/or is a failed state will have great problems in containing Covid-19. The long-term solution is not to have “failed states” unable to adequately cater to the needs of its people.

Burundi: Cases 63, deaths 1, recovered 33, tests 284. Note from the chart above that Burundi has not updated its statistics for the last 5 days.

Supporters of Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party attend a campaign rally in Gitega province on 27 April. (Evrard Ngendakumana/REUTERS). Note that there is no social distancing and not one person is wearing a mask.

Burundi is an enigma like Tanzania. Besides closing the borders no restrictions have been placed on movement within the country. There are no requirements on social distancing and wearing of masks. All schools and churches are open as usual. Burundi continued with it May 20 elections. As can be seen in the picture above, large campaign gatherings occurred. If the number of tests at 284 is correct, there has been a woeful lack of testing. If you look at the Burundi line (orange) in the chart, you will notice long flat lines indicating that there were no announcements on the number of cases, deaths, tests, and recoveries.

On May 12, the Health Ministry expelled the four WHO officials in the country, “accusing it [WHO] of unacceptable interference in its management of the coronavirus.”

Then on Thursday, May 28, Denise Nkurunziza, the wife of out-going Burundi president, Pierre Nkurunziza, after testing positive for Covid-19, was flown to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, for treatment. She was flown in a special isolation chamber, an innovative medical unit designed for secure safety during patient loading and transport and is compatible with usual ambulance-stretcher systems.

This uncertainty of the actual situation concerning Covid-19 in Burundi has led to fear of the reality on the ground. Whether the situation is good or bad, it is more assuring to know the true statistics rather than speculate via rumors.

Dr. Alexia Nibona washing her hands at Ntaseka Clinic.

This all hits home for me since I have been involved with the Ntaseka Clinic in Kamenge slum of Bujumbura since 2002 when it began. I asked Parfaite Ntahuba, Friends Women’s Association’s National Coordinator, about the situation at the clinic. Here is her response:

The Ntaseka Clinic has not yet had any suspected case of covid-19. At Ntaseka Clinic we have disinfectant and masks. We have hand washing at Ntaseka’s entrance and in every service. The main challenge is water shortage and water problem can increase during this dry season. For instance in Kamenge slum people can have water between 2:00 am and 4:00 am. Those who don’t have water in their own homes (who find water in public places) are in more trouble. So, if we don’t have enough water, hand washing becomes challenging.

The Ntaseka Clinic has initiated a GlobalGiving fundraiser to support the purchase of Covid-19 equipment. Please click here to see the details and to donate. Thanks.

1Sabbot clean shoes10440
2Safety boxes10330
3Digital thermometers2714
4Clean gloves10660
5Household gloves3618
7Buckets with taps41560
8Buckets without taps4312
9Stools/Small tables4728
9Coats for medical staff1030300
10Plastic tank (5000 liters)1450450
11TOTAL  1162

So far 6 people have donated a total of $195 to this fundraiser.


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David Zarembka

Phone 254 (0)726 590 783
Reports from Kenya: