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As countries have struggled with disease and death throughout the coronavirus pandemic, one part of the world seems to have been mostly spared: central and western Africa.

South Africa was deeply affected by waves of the coronavirus, as were countries in East Africa like Kenya and Uganda. But nations in the center and west of the continent appear to have been largely spared. Sierra Leone, for example, has reported a total of 7,700 cases and 125 deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

What is behind these low case and death rates — and what does that tell us about the future of the pandemic?


Stephanie Nolen, a global health reporter for The New York Times.

Vendors gathering to buy fish in Sierra Leone. The New York Times’s Stephanie Nolen traveled there to explore the coronavirus situation.
Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

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Stephanie Nolen contributed reporting.

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