Surprisingly, studies have shown that the leading cause of death in Africa is not HIV, cholera or malaria, but the seemingly inconsequential accidents happening on a daily basis, especially on the roads.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90 percent of the world’s fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries; despite the fact that these countries have approximately 54 percent of the world’s vehicles.
Apart from road accidents, there are many other incidents that continue to claim lives in Africa. Here are 5 preventable incidents that hit Africa hard in 2017.
Deadly Mudslide in Sierra Leone
On August 14, after three days of heavy downpour in many parts of Sierra Leone, the residents of Freetown, the country’s capital city, woke up to horrifying scenes of a deadly mudslide that had buried hundreds of homesteads.
The overnight calamity left over 1,000 people dead and more than 3,000 others without homes. A cloud of misery and shock enclosed the entire country as hundreds of victims were laid to rest in mass graves.
Although it was a natural disaster, investigations revealed that the devastating nature of the mudslide was exacerbated by the city’s deprived infrastructure and poor drainage system. Some critics also blamed the government of Sierra Leone for laxity and failing to learn from previous disasters.
Gas Explosion in Ghana
The night of October 7, 2017, will forever remain in the minds of many residents of the Ghanaian capital Accra as the night when all hell broke loose. A rather quiet night suddenly turned chaotic after two loud explosions at a natural gas depot in northeast Accra sent a huge fireball into the sky, forcing terrified residents to flee their homes.
The incident, which happened at the Atomic Junction roundabout area at around 7:30 pm, left seven people dead and many others with serious burns. The initial explosion happened at the state-owned gas depot and spread to a nearby petrol station, which caused the second explosion.
Statistics show that Ghana has suffered eight deadly gas explosions between 2014 and 2017, raising concerns over the safety standards of gas depots and petrol stations across the country.
Fatal Train Derailments in Cameroon, South African and Ghana
In July, one person died and many others sustained serious injuries after a freight train derailed in Makondo town, 87 miles west of the Cameroonian capital Yaounde. The incident happened less than a year after another train operated by the same state rail company Camrail overturned killing 79 people.
A government report blamed Camrail, a unit of French industrial group Bollore, for the accidents, arguing that the trains normally exceed the speed limit, are overloaded and have defective brakes.
In June, a train derailed in Mpumalanga, South Africa, leaving several passengers with minor injuries. Even though there were no causalities reported from the incident, it raised questions about the safety standards of railroads in South Africa. Initial investigations revealed that the train overturned due to damaged tracks.
In October, another train overturned in Tesano, Ghana, en route to the capital Accra. Luckily, there were no casualties, but the incident left at least three people nursing serious injuries. The cause of the accident wasn’t immediately discovered although some people associated it with the poor state of the rail tracks.
Meningitis Outbreaks in Ghana, Niger and Nigeria
Meningitis, an inflammation of the meninges, continues to be a major health challenge in Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries. Over the last nine months, authorities in Ghana have intensified processes of identifying cases of pneumococcal meningitis after the disease killed four students at Kumasi Academy in March.
Although health experts in Ghana have dispelled fears of a major meningitis outbreak, they acknowledge that the disease, which is highly preventable, remains a major health risk in the country, especially in the northern region.
In Nigeria, at least 8,057 cases of suspected cerebrospinal meningitis were reported in April, with 230 of them being confirmed through laboratory tests. At least 745 people in the West African nation have died this year from the disease, according to Relief Web.
Experts say the deadly disease can easily be eliminated if proper preparedness and response policies are put in place.
Migrant Crisis in Libya
Although the migrant crisis in Libya has been going on for several years, it seemingly hit its peak in 2017 going by the thousands of African migrants that died in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe.
Aside from the horrifying deaths, thousands of migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa, are currently languishing in Libyan detention camps, where they are usually abused, tortured and sold as slaves. Sadly, a significant number of these migrants are refugees fleeing wars and persecution in their home countries. Some of them are children, underage girls, and pregnant women.
It’s a humanitarian crisis that has put to question the work of the international human rights organizations and the international community in general. While some observers blame African governments for failing to provide their citizens with better living conditions in their respective countries, others blame European authorities for not creating safer and legal means for African migrants to reach Europe.
As curtains come down on the year 2017, many Africans hope that these painful incidents will serve as a lesson and induce those in authority to find ways to avoid them in 2018. Have a safe 2018