China’s mass deployment of medical aid to fight the coronavirus reached Africa as Ethiopia received its first shipment of supplies, including protective gear and test kits, for distribution across the continent from billionaire Jack Ma.
The Horn of Africa nation received 5.4 million face masks, more than 1 million testing kits, 40,000 items of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of face shields, China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Jack Ma’s foundation said in a statement Sunday. More medical supplies are expected over the next few weeks.
“Getting these donations to all 54 African countries, with diverse geographic conditions and different levels of infrastructure, is a great logistical and transportation challenge,” the foundation said. “We are working around the clock to make the delivery as fast as possible.”
A plane bound for Africa carrying 5.4 million face masks, over a million testing kits and thousands of protective suits sponsored by China's Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation has taken off.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) March 22, 2020
Ethiopia’s Health Ministry will coordinate the distribution together with the national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, and with support from the World Food Programme and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said separately. Abiy announced a week ago he’d struck a deal with Ma.
Although the spread of the virus has been relatively slow in Africa, the number of people who tested positive have climbed to about 1,000 in more than 40 countries.
Still, the consequences of pandemic will be “catastrophic due to the continent’s weak health care systems, including inadequate surveillance and laboratory capacity, scarcity of public health human resources, and limited financial means,” said Abiy.