Without adequate intervention measures, estimates show that between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives due to the coronavirus, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said in a report on Friday.
It said this could happen as the pandemic continues spreading across the continent's weak economies, whose growth is expected to slow down from 3.2 % to 1.8 % "in a best-case scenario, pushing close to 27 million people into extreme poverty."
There are over 17,000 confirmed cases across the continent, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
"To protect and build towards the continent's shared prosperity, $100 billion is needed to urgently and immediately provide fiscal space to all countries to help address the immediate safety net needs of the populations," said Vera Songwe, U.N. under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.
Songwe added that this is very likely to happen because 56% of Africa's urban population is concentrated in slums and only 34% of households have access to basic handwashing facilities.
"The economic costs of the pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of COVID-19. Across the continent, all economies are suffering from the sudden shock to the economies. The physical distancing needed to manage the pandemic is suffocating and drowning economic activity," she said.
"Women are the front end and the back end of this crisis, they are our nurses and run many of the small businesses," Songwe said.
She added that policies put in place to respond to the crisis must be in collaboration with women.
"We must be firm and clear on good governance to safeguard our health systems, ensure proper use of emergency funds, prevent our businesses from collapse and reduce worker lay offs."
The humanitarian and economic consequences of the COVID-19 "pandemic will be profound in Africa, and we need solidarity and collective action to mitigate the impacts," Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional director for Africa, said Thursday.
The continent has also recorded more than 3,500 coronavirus recoveries and 910 deaths, according to the Africa CDC.
Globally, more than 2.16 million people have been infected by the virus, with over 145,500 deaths and nearly 550,000 recoveries, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.