International relief charity Christian Aid says there is currently a short window of time to help African nations prevent coronavirus spreading and causing devastation on top of underlying issues in the continent.
The charity says coronavirus infections have risen sharply in Africa, with many countries lacking specialist equipment or staff to cope with a pandemic.
They are therefore calling for the cancellation of debt repayments from African countries this year, so that money in those nations can be freed up and spent on saving lives instead.
An estimated $5 billion in additional funding is needed to cover the cost of supplies for hospitals, including tests, masks, gloves, and ventilators and African finance ministers have collectively called for $100 billion to help them cope.
Currently 42 African countries spend more on debt payments than healthcare. Last week, G20 Finance Ministers agreed to suspend debt repayments from the world's 77 poorest countries but Christian Aid said this was not enough as the payments would be postponed, with interest added, and not completely cancelled.
Christian Aid also points out that many countries have to contend with underlying health issues that affect the immune system, leaving many more vulnerable to coronavirus - as well as malaria, the effects of poor nutrition and high numbers of people living with HIV.
There are over 26,000 coronavirus cases in Africa as of 24th April, with around 1,200 people having died.
The number of cases has risen 43 per cent in a week and the World Health Organisation is warning it could be the next epicentre of the pandemic.
Christian Aid/Tom Pilston
With extremely low testing levels, the true figure is suspected to be higher, with some warning the continent could see tens of thousands of cases in coming weeks.
According to the WHO there are less than 2,000 ventilators and 5,000 intensive care unit beds across Africa. In addition, Africa has far fewer medical staff per head of population than would be needed to cope with a pandemic.
In sub-Saharan Africa only 15 per cent of people have soap and water facilities at home and many people live in higher density areas or in cramped homes.
Patrick Watt, Christian Aid's director of policy, public affairs and campaigns, said: "It is completely perverse that dozens of the world's poorest countries are expected to pay debts to wealthy creditors in the midst of the biggest global health challenge in a generation, and the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. At this moment, cancelling the debt is a matter of life and death."