A stampede in a Nairobi slum on Good Friday – when scores of people were injured as thousands scrambled for food donations – points to the headache faced by African countries as they try to contain the spread of the coronavirus . When the residents of Kibera, a sprawling and densely populated informal settlement in the southwest of Nairobi, tried to force their way through a gate for a share of the food they were met with tear gas. Many of the urban poor live hand-to-mouth, and coronavirus has only made the situation worse. The incident followed government-imposed restrictions which make it difficult for most people, who depend on day labour, to go out and earn a living. What happened in Kibera – arguably Africa’s largest slum – is a reflection of the situation across many African countries, where lockdowns, border closures, curfews and bans on large gatherings, have been imposed. The coronavirus has so far infected more than 19,000 people and killed more than 900 on the continent, as of Friday. North African countries have been the worst affected, with Algeria reporting the most fatalities , followed by Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Some countries have recently recorded their index cases, meaning their graphs are just starting to point up, after weeks of being spared. More than 44 African countries have implemented some form of social distancing – from partial to total lockdowns, curfews and school closures to bans on gatherings – to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Millions of people in at least 20 countries, including South Africa, Liberia, Mauritius, Tunisia, Rwanda, Lesotho, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, have imposed nationwide lockdowns, limiting the ability of their citizens to leave their homes. Dozens of others have imposed lockdowns in some regions, or implemented strict curfews, while others have cordoned off cities from the rest of the country to prevent importation of cases into other regions. Virag Forizs, an emerging markets economist at London-based consultancy Capital Economics, said the risk that such restrictive measures would fail to contain the outbreak was bigger in the region than in other parts of the world. “One thing, most people in Africa live in larger extended households, making it harder for people to isolate themselves. And, outside South Africa, only a small minority of people have running water in their homes,” she said in a research note. But the worst-case scenario would be if the lockdowns failed to contain the virus, while still inflicting severe economic pain on citizens unable to earn a living, she said. Even though Africa had experience with infectious diseases and “its population is relatively young, which might lower the risk according to some studies, the region’s fragile health systems could quickly get overloaded in a widespread outbreak”, Forizs said. “Even when assuming that the worst-case scenario is avoided, the social and economic price of lockdown measures will be high.” Coronavirus risk to great apes threatens Africa’s Chinese tourist income The impact of coronavirus restrictions has left millions unable to earn a living and made them dependent on donations and government supplies – even as the latest World Bank report for Africa warned the Covid-19 crisis had the potential to create a severe food security crisis in Africa. The “Africa Pulse” report, which analysed the economic impact of the pandemic and policy responses in Sub-Saharan Africa, said that a “disorderly, non-cooperative response to the pandemic, leading to an increase in trade restrictions” would “contribute to the risk of the food security crisis in sub-Saharan African countries”. To avert a crisis, governments in Africa should implement social protection programmes to support workers, especially those in the informal sector, it said. “This calls for cash transfers, in-kind transfers (food distribution), social grants to disabled people and the elderly, wage subsidies to prevent massive lay-offs, and fee waivers for basic services (electricity tariffs and mobile money transactions).” Uganda and Rwanda are making door-to-door food deliveries to thousands of vulnerable households affected by the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown. The World Health Organisation said governments must use the restrictions in a considered, evidence-based manner, and make provisions to ensure people had access to necessities and essential services. The WHO pointed out that many people in the region lived in crowded conditions or worked in the informal sector and needed to earn daily money to survive. Swarm of billions of locusts threatens millions in Africa Lola Castro, the World Food Programme (WFP) regional director for Southern Africa, said it was vital that “ports continue to operate to receive food and other essential humanitarian cargo; that borders and roads stay open so it can be moved where it is most needed, and that distribution to vulnerable people is conducted safely”. Countries in the Southern Africa region, especially Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, were already facing hunger following a devastating drought and two cyclones last year. The lockdown could plunge Zimbabweans deeper into hunger, according to the WFP, with the country already hit by severe drought. “With most Zimbabweans already struggling to put food on the table, the Covid-19 pandemic risks even wider and deeper desperation,” Eddie Rowe, WFP’s country director, said. China asked to write off more African debts as coronavirus hits economies Cereal production in 2019 was half that of 2018, and less than half the national requirement, in a country struggling financially after the European Union and the US imposed sanctions on former president Robert Mugabe’s regime over human rights abuses. “Covid-19 threatens to exacerbate Zimbabwe’s dire economic and hunger crises, drastically affecting the lives of people in both urban and rural areas,” the WFP said. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) also warned that the coronavirus pandemic may trigger a looming food crisis. “We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system,” it warned. “As of April, May, we expect disruptions in the food supply chains,” the agency said on its website. The FAO is particularly concerned about “the pandemic’s impacts on vulnerable communities already grappling with hunger or other crises such as the desert locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa”.