By: Precious M. Lesupi
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned Africa’s death toll from the novel corona virus could reach a number as high as 190,000 in the first year of the pandemic. This is only an addition to the many other diseases already taking a toll on the continet’s resources such as Ebola.
Despite this report, most West African countries are finding it extremely difficult to keep their mosques closed during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. For these countries, although the number of confirmed virus cases increases steadily and testing remains limited, prayer is now more important than ever.
In Dakar, men queued outside the Massalikul Jinaan mosque awaiting hand sanitizer prior to entry. Inside, some 2,000 men set their prayer mats 1.5 meters apart while 3,000 others spread out into the courtyard of West Africa’s largest mosque. As much as the virus cannot be escaped, these men believe that as long as they follow the health guidelines, God will protect them.
Niger and Senegal allowed mass prayers to resume last week, and Liberia will also be reopening its houses of worship beginning. In Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria, several states have signaled the reopening of mosques though the number of confirmed cases nationwide is well over 5,000.
West Africa has countries with fewer hospitals and ventilators, however, decisions in this part of the continent are starting to reflect an acknowledgment that the virus’ impacts might last longer than expected. Most local Imams have been reported to have tried their best to educate their people, while also stressing that even Mecca has been closed.
In Guinea, a group of young men used force recently in an attempt to open the mosques’ doors in Dubreka, a city located 50 kilometers north of the capital, Conakry. Guinea now has more than 2,500 cases even with limited testing.