Coronavirus: as the pandemic progresses Central Africa becomes plagued by the virus

Caritas International Belgium Coronavirus: as the pandemic progresses Central Africa becomes plagued by the virus

© Caritas Congo - The coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate and asphyxiate the world in its path. What is the threat to fragile communities?

© Caritas Congo - The coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate and asphyxiate the world in its path. What is the threat to fragile communities?

25/05/2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread like wildfire across European and American countries, it has now also hit the four corners of the African continent. The global Caritas network is sounding the alarm because it is a silent catastrophe in the making. What will happen to the most vulnerable people in Congo, Rwanda, or Burundi?

Caritas International, supported by its global network, is mobilizing itself and offers you current and accurate updates every day.

In the DR Congo: The number of positive cases are accelerating

On Tuesday, March 24, the Democratic Republic of Congo declared a state of emergency. Its capital, Kinshasa, is the third largest city in Africa, after Lagos and Cairo. It is the Congolese city that has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. After initially announcing the city’s isolation from the rest of the country, the government has quickly backtracked on this decision, realising the potentially catastrophic consequences of the decision (food prizes for example almost doubled on the markets). There are still restrictive measures in place in Kinshasa. For example there is now a limit to the number of passengers that can use public transport at a time. “And this in a city where the movements of the population are essential and close encounters difficult to avoid,” comments Abbé Eric Abedilembe Awacanok, deputy secretary of Caritas Congo.

Since Monday April 7, Kinshasa’s business center has been placed in quarantine. The district of Gombe, home to government buildings, embassies and several large corporations, is considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic. In place until April 20, this quarantine also meant that offices and buildings had to be and since have been disinfected. Since then, it is also compulsory to wear a mask in Kinshasa. A pass is also required to enter the district of Gombe.

Cases of infection have also been recorded in eastern DRC, in Goma, Beni and Bukavu. These cities have also been quarantined. Boat traffic on Lake Kivu between Goma and Bukavu – and the island of Idjwi – has been suspended.

The country is getting ready to face this pandemic but the sanitary facilities are much more precarious than in Europe. Respirators are missing and tests are lacking. Experts estimate that the death rate linked to COVID-19 will reach 10% more than the death rate in other currently affected countries such as Italy.[1]

Caritas Congo is preparing to coordinate emergency assistance to vulnerable groups during this period of restrictions. They are also trying to strengthen awareness around hygiene practices and through our humanitarian watch system  are tracking the evolution of the epidemic as it moves through the territory.

Evolution of the virus as of May 29[4]

The number of officially announced coronavirus cases in the DR Congo has risen to 2.833, including 69 deaths and 400 cures. Most of these cases have been confirmed in Kinshasa.

Focus on Covid-19 prevention in neighbouring countries

Since Sunday, March 22, Rwanda has been in almost total confinement. As is in Belgium, the country’s borders are closed. Rwandans are no longer allowed to go out except for groceries or to get medical treatment. People fear that these restrictions will cause an economic catastrophe that will have long-term consequences, especially for the most precarious people. Yet enforcing confinement measures is difficult, especially rural areas and places with informal housing. To counter the spread of the virus, Caritas Rwanda is working together with the Catholic Church to strengthen its communication and prevention measures.

With the first cases also confirmed in Burundi, teams are preparing for the virus but their resources are sorely lacking. Just to give you one figure, currently in Burundi there are only a dozen respirators available for nearly 12 million inhabitants[3]. Caritas Burundi disseminates advice and prevention messages through its network of parishes. It has also set up a Disease Response Preparedness Committee.

In South Sudan, there is a first case reported. But the potential risks of the pandemic are scary. The country is not equipped to respond to the virus. For example, only 300 virus detection tests are available for a population of more than 12.5 million people.

Evolution of the virus as of May 29[2]

  • Rwanda: 349 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
  • Burundi: 42 cases reported, including 1 death.
  • South Sudan: 994 cases reported, including 10 deaths.

One goal: to be there for the victims of this pandemic

In Belgium, Caritas International is taking every effort to guarantee social support and protection for people within its reception buildings and offering assistance where it is required; especially for the most vulnerable people.

Apart from the countries mentioned above, the Caritas network is also actively working against the spread of the virus in about 50 countries. In Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, or closer to home in Italy, our mobile teams contribute to screening, organize emergency reception, food distributions, etc…

You can also act by joining the Caritas rescue team! You don’t even have to leave your home, you can support the Coronavirus donation fund via our online platform or on the BE88 0000 0000 4141 account with the code “Coronavirus 005”.  

Footnote :

1

Doctor Antoine Samsoni, La Libre Afrique,”DRC: We must fear at least 75,000 dead in Kinshasa,” March 25,2020, accessed on 03/26/2020.

2

Note that these official figures do not exactly reflect the situation regarding the spread of the coronavirus because access to testing is very limited in these countries. However, this is an official quantified inventory, which we consider important to relay in order to assess the evolution of the pandemic. Source: WHO, Coronavirus disease (COIVD-19) Situation Dashboard, accessed on 05/29/2020.

3

RFI, “Burundi: what response in the event of coronavirus?” March 24, 2020, accessed on 03/26/2020.

4

Note that these official figures do not exactly reflect the situation regarding the spread of the coronavirus because access to testing is very limited in these countries. However, this is an official quantified inventory, which we consider important to relay in order to assess the evolution of the pandemic. Source: Ministry of Health DRC,  Stop Coronavirus RDC, accessed on 05/29/2020.

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