Myth #06: COVID-19 will be among the deadliest killers in Africa
Young African girl drinking clean water from a tap in the streets of Bamako, Mali.

Myth #06: COVID-19 will be among the deadliest killers in Africa

SPOILER ALERT: There are lots of numbers below that could overwhelm you and keep you from reading on or — perhaps worse — numb you to the reality that each of these numbers actually represents a human being — many of them under five years old.

Although COVID-19 threatens the health, wellbeing and economy of Africa, it is very unlikely to be among the top 10 killers in 2020. As I write this in mid-July, there have been ~665,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in Africa and ~14,360 deaths. Contrast those numbers with the World Health Organization’s report about malaria deaths for 2018: ~380,000 Africans died of malaria with ~255,000 of the deaths among children under five years old. Does this mean COVID-19 is not a major problem for Africans? Certainly not! 

COVID-19 is devastating, particularly to those living in extreme poverty. But the worst impact of COVID-19 in Africa will not be COVID-19 deaths directly, but rather COVID-19’s knock-on or indirect effects — especially its impact on hunger, the overall economy, wellbeing, and unemployment. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized the critical importance of sustaining efforts to prevent, detect, and treat malaria. In an April 2020 report, WHO writes that “[s]evere disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year as compared to 2018.” I talked about this report with my son Noah recently while we were walking on his organic vegetable farm. I was excited to visit my fifteen-month-old granddaughter in his cabin ahead when he reminded me with a wry smile that COVID-19 deaths are “overwhelmingly older people like you, dad, while the malaria deaths are predominantly children and pregnant women.” Keeping Noah’s comment in mind about who is impacted most by a failure to aggressively prevent and treat malaria and the risk COVID-19 poses to malaria prevention and treatment, donating to our two recommended malaria nonprofits is an excellent way to respond to COVID-19.

Donate to Help Prevent Malaria


Starvation is a pressing global issue even in the best of times. The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to add dramatically to the 73 million Africans at risk of extreme food insecurity. As COVID-19 deteriorates economic conditions, it could also result in funding cuts to major humanitarian organizations. Upwards of 300,000 people could die every day as a result of these funding cuts, according to the World Food Program’s Executive Director. Donating to our nonprofits that emphasize combating hunger and malnutrition is another excellent, highly effective response to COVID-19’s knock-on effects.
Donate to Help Prevent Hunger & Malnutrition


And, finally, we do have a COVID-19 fund that includes all our nonprofits that are doing work to combat the pandemic more directly.

A positive side effect of COVID-19 — for those of us who are lucky enough to remain employed — is that we are spending less. Please take the money you are saving and increase your donations. This is one of the best responses to COVID-19. So stay safe, be mindful of others’ safety, and donate generously to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on people living in extreme poverty.


Do Good. Feel Good.

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About the author:

Charles Bresler

Co-founder, Board Member

After earning a PhD in Social and Clinical Psychology, Charlie Bresler became director of behavioral medicine for The California School of Professional Psychology, Fresno (CSPP-F), where he was a full-time professor and founder of a teaching clinic for anxiety & stress disorders. In 1993, he was recruited by The Men’s Wearhouse, where he went on to be head of human resources, stores, marketing, and, ultimately, president. He stepped down in 2008 to fulfill his long-standing desire to work directly on social and economic issues, not too long after he read Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save. Catalyzed by the concept, Charlie reached out to Peter and proposed combining Peter’s theory with the formation of a nonprofit to advance Peter’s ideas and to raise money for high-impact, cost-effective organizations. Together, they founded The Life You Can Save, where Charlie took on all organizational operations as executive director until 2024. He was supported in this work and in his financial support for the organization by his wife Diana, a family physician, and executed the role pro bono.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.