Covid-19: influx of international donations saves Tunisia from health disaster

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Donations from Europe and the Persian Gulf, Tunisians from the diaspora and ordinary citizens go to help Tunisia hit hard by Covid-19 and avoid a health “disaster”, according to health professionals.

A cry for help was heard. Donations are coming to Tunisia, whether from European countries or the Gulf States, to avoid a health “catastrophe” due to Covid-19. This Maghreb country, which struggled to find the necessary vaccines before the epidemic began in July, has now received 3.2 million doses, mostly proposed, and the number is expected by mid-August by mid-August, according to the Ministry of Health. will exceed 5 million.

About 500,000 doses came from China, the same amount from the United Arab Emirates and 250,000 doses came from neighboring Algeria. France alone this week gave over a million doses of AstraZeneca and Janssen, enough to vaccinate 800,000 people, or “a tenth of the adult population” of this country of 12 million, French Secretary of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoine told AFP. …

When it comes to sending aid, associations and the diaspora do not stand aside.

According to Sirina Chadley, a member of the Tunisian Young Doctors Organization, who has called for donations from other associations and institutions, “the mobilization of civil society has saved Tunisia from a disastrous scenario.”

Thus, adds Dr. Hechmi Luzir, head of the Institut Pasteur de Tunis, “vaccine donations will enable us to accelerate vaccinations in order to achieve our goal of vaccinating approximately 50% of the population by mid-October.” That “will reduce the circulation of the virus in the country,” he adds to AFP.

But these vaccines arrive late. Tunisia, which received only one-sixth of the doses promised under the Covax program for low-income countries, found itself with one of the lowest death rates from Covid-19 in the world.

90 to 500 intensive care beds

Tunisian internet users share videos of families panicking over not finding a bed for their loved one, caregivers fearing a lack of oxygen, and bodies piled up in overcrowded morgues.

Public hospitals, which in normal times were already deprived of opportunities due to mismanagement and lack of resources, again sought help in early summer to obtain, inter alia, protective equipment and tools for resuscitation.

At Kairouan Hospital (North), one of the first to be hit by the influx of patients in late June, “donations of oxygen concentrators have reduced serious cases and deaths,” says Dr. Chadley. …

Tennis champion Ons Jaber sold two rackets to fund the intensive care unit.

Tunisia, where there were only 90 public sector intensive care beds before the pandemic, now has 500, thanks in part to donations.

Lack of coordination and administrative obstacles

Tunisian customs have allowed Tunisians arriving from overseas to bring one oxygen concentrator per traveler without paying taxes. But the installation of more sophisticated equipment suffers from lack of coordination or administration obstacles.

A field hospital provided by the United States in May was built in July; another one proposed by Qatar is still not operational due to lack of an oxygen source.

Of the three oxygen generators supplied by France in early June, worth one million euros, each of which ensures the smooth operation of 300 beds, only one is fully functional.

Meanwhile, France and Italy have sent large quantities of oxygen in containers in recent days.

Other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Algeria or the United Arab Emirates have also sent tons of medical equipment. Even Mauritania offered 15 tons of fish.

But this will not be enough to overcome the crisis: preventive measures continue to be poorly enforced, and power struggles at the top of the state are undermining government agencies.

“We need public awareness, good government management of the health crisis and political stability,” stresses Dr. Chadley.

With AFP

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