Measles speed race, deadlier than Ebola

At least 18 people were killed, including 12 rangers who came to the aid of civilians, Friday in an attack perpetrated by an armed group inside the Virunga national park, natural and tourist jewel in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In addition to the twelve rangers, their two drivers and four civilians died in the unclaimed attack north of Goma, a park spokesman told an AFP journalist.

A security source has for its part made a report of 13 eco-guards and five civilians killed.

There were also “wounded, some of whom are fighting for their survival,” the park said in a statement, referring to a day to mark with a “black stone” for this site classified as World Heritage by Unesco and “the residents of neighboring communities “.

It is one of the heaviest attacks targeting some 700 Virunga rangers, 176 of whom have been killed in 20 years, in this region of Kivu destabilized by the violence of armed groups for a quarter of a century.

In its statement, the park said the attack was carried out near its headquarters in Rumangabo, in the mountains of Rutshuru territory.

“All the information available at this stage indicates that it was an attack against civilians. The guards were not the target and died while assisting the civilian vehicle which had been taken under fire from the attackers” , details the press release.

Virunga Park claims it “is unable to provide details on the motivations and identity of the attackers”, and warns of “the spread of rumors and unrelated information verified. “

Covering an area of ​​7,769 km2, the Virunga cover part of the province of North Kivu (almost 60,000 km2), especially along the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

– Active armed groups –

The oldest natural reserve in Africa unseen in 1925, the park is a sanctuary for mountain gorillas.

The great apes are one of its tourist attractions, with the spectacular ascent of the Nyiaragongo volcano, and a nocturnal bivouac in the red glow of its active crater at more than 3,000 m above sea level.

But the park is also the field of action for dozens of armed groups active in the region, such as the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the FDLR, very present in the attack area.

Trusteeship Institute of Virunga, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) has identified all the threats to its natural jewel: “illegal production of charcoal”, “poaching of large mammals, especially the hippopotamus” , “illegal fishing” as well as the “presence of armed groups” and the “invasion by illegal diggers of minerals”.

In May 2018, Virunga Park had suspended its tourist activity, following the kidnapping of two British tourists, who were finally released. An eco-guard was killed in this attack.

The park had reopened its activity to tourists in February 2019.

In 2014, the park director, Emmanuel de Mérode, was injured in an armed attack.

That same year, the park had again gained notoriety in the world with the documentary Virunga produced in 2014 by the American actor Leonardo Di Caprio.

The Virunga company has also embarked on the construction of hydroelectric power stations, for the production and distribution of electricity in Goma and its region.

The visits had been suspended since March 19 as part of the preventive measures taken by the authorities in the face of the coronavirus epidemic.

“However, the personnel and the technical teams are the only ones authorized to circulate on these areas, while respecting the measures advocated by our leaders”, specified the body responsible for the park.

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Corrosive South Korean film “Parasite” broke down barriers

The South Korean film “Parasite”, both a thriller and a corrosive satire on social inequalities, succeeded in breaking down language barriers to meet immense success around the world, up to winning three Oscars in one evening.

It is a consecration for “Parasite”, the first Korean film ever awarded an Oscar. Exceptional crowning of a year 2019 marking the hundredth anniversary of Korean cinema.

Its director Bong Joon-ho first received a first statuette for the best original screenplay. Then his film was crowned best international feature film, and he received the Oscar for best director.

Bong Joon-ho’s film had previously won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival last year and the Golden Globe for “best foreign language film” in January, two prestigious prizes which already constituted a first for a southern film. -Korean.

“Parasite” is also the first foreign language film to be awarded the “Best Actor Set”, the most popular award from the Screen Actors Guild, as well as two Bafta awards for British cinema.

If this feature film has won over an international audience, it is because it tackles problems common to all societies, explains Jason Bechervaise, professor at the South Korean University of Soongsil Cyber.

“There is a lot of political anger around the world, and it is compounded by a palpable feeling of growing social inequality. The word” parasite + “really fits that,” he told AFP. .

– Poverty and wealth “inextricably linked” –

Dark comedy, “Parasite” tells how four members of a family of unemployed – who vegetate in a dark and sordid apartment overgrown with cockroaches – manage to get into the daily life of a wealthy family in Seoul.

Their life begins to change radically the day the son becomes the private tutor of English for the daughter of this wealthy family, who lives in a sumptuous contemporary villa surrounded by a magnificent garden.

The film by Bong Joon-ho, known for his thrillers camouflaging satires of South Korean society, shows “very well how poverty and wealth are inextricably linked”, explains to AFP John Lie, professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The rich are parasites on the poor, like the poor are on the rich,” he said.

The international success of this work, especially in the United States, is all the more remarkable since the English language dominates international cinema and the success of non-English-speaking films is rare.

In France, “Parasite” has become the most seen Palme d’Or in cinemas for fifteen years.

– “A universal interest” –

During the Golden Globes ceremony, Mr. Bong – who was signing his seventh film there – called out to American spectators: “Once you have overcome the subtitle barrier, you will open yourself up to so many other amazing films” .

For Bao Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American director, Mr. Bong’s Oscar is an “example to follow for future Asian and American filmmakers”.

“Parasite” is a film “deeply rooted in its representation of Korean society, and has in no way yielded to the expectations of a foreign audience,” he told AFP.

Its success will open new horizons for other films, wants to believe Deborah Shaw, professor of cinematographic studies at the University of Portsmouth in Great Britain.

This should “make more international producers and distributors likely to invest in non-English speaking films,” she said.

But in any case, it is proof that a “good story, told in an excellent way and with universal interest, can transcend” language barriers, according to her.

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More than 6,000 dead in the “worst measles epidemic in the world” (WHO)

The political, diplomatic and economic heart of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will be “quarantined” for 14 days from Monday due to the coronavirus, the governor of the city announced on Thursday.

This measure comes after the DRC’s mobilization against the Covid-19 began in dispersed order and in confusion.

The residential commune of Gombe, one of the 26 in the capital of at least ten million inhabitants, “is quarantined from April 6 to 20,” said Governor Gentiny Ngobila during a radio intervention. televised.

Seat of government, major embassies, several banks, the town of Gombe “is considered to be the epicenter of the epidemic in the city,” added the governor.

During the partial confinement of the only Gombe, the team of the “response” to Covid-19 “will organize itself to search for the sick people, but also to investigate the contacts at risk and the symptomatic cases on all the extent of the city Kinshasa for their screening and treatment, “he said.

The same governor had announced last Thursday a first “total containment” of four days of all Kinshasa, before reversing the next day for fear of soaring prices and insecurity.

– Jamming –

The beginning of the fight against the virus in the DRC has so far been marked by the confusion around confinement, the lack of resources, and even panic.

“Next week will be the most difficult for Kinshasa. The figures will quickly double or even triple,” warned the head of the care teams, Doctor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, in an interview with Jeune Afrique.

According to the last official report published Thursday evening, the country has 134 confirmed cases (11 cases more in 24 hours) with 13 deaths and three recoveries.

A figure probably very undervalued in one of the largest countries in Africa (around 80 million inhabitants), given the low number of tests carried out. “On average, 50 per day by the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB)”, according to a health source.

The vast majority of confirmed cases (126) are concentrated in Kinshasa, isolated from the rest of the country by decision of the Head of State, Félix Tshisekedi.

Outside the capital, eight cases have been reported for a week in the east of the country.

Thursday evening, a first case was even declared in Beni in the province of North Kivu, epicenter of a previous Ebola epidemic whose end must be officially proclaimed on April 12.

The first cases declared from March 10 were “imported” from Europe, for example affecting those close to the government, some of whom have died. The Gombe health zone was the most affected.

In terms of health, the care team is organized around the virologist Jean-Jacques Muyembe, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus in 1976, head of the INRB.

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, gynecologist Denis Mukwege, has been appointed head of a “health commission” in his province of South Kivu (east) where two cases have been recorded.

– 65 respirators –

On paper, each of the 26 communes in Kinshasa is attached to one or two hospitals for the treatment of Covid-19 cases.

But in practice, “the medical structures are not prepared to receive the sick, with the exception of a hospital run by the Chinese,” according to a health source. And hospitals only have 65 respirators for the entire city, according to a researcher.

IRNB teams “have no cars, no fuel. NGOs provide cars,” foreign sources report.

The illness struck relatives of the head of state, who themselves experienced difficulties in care.

Special adviser to the president, Vidiye Tshimanga stayed 48 hours at home without any news from the care teams after being diagnosed on March 23 (and after an error in the transmission of the diagnosis), he told AFP. . The forties, who has mild symptoms, has since been treated with chloroquine and zithromax.

“There is a general form of panic that has set in. The patients of Covid-19 are left out without receiving care. There is a lack of information which will be remedied by the government. It must be done as soon as possible, “hopes Tshimanga.

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The UN is betting on sterilizing mosquitoes to fight diseases

Donald Trump further toughens his tone against China on the coronavirus: the American president threatened on Thursday to sever all relations with the Asian giant and assured that he no longer wanted to speak to his president.

White House tenant Donald Trump has been hammering for weeks that the heavy toll of the Covid-19 – nearly 300,000 dead worldwide – could have been avoided if China had acted responsibly from the start virus in Wuhan city.

In an interview with Fox Business television broadcast on Thursday, he said he was “very disappointed” with Beijing’s attitude and rejected the idea of ​​speaking directly with his counterpart Xi Jinping to ease tensions.

“I have a very good relationship (with him) but at the moment I don’t want to talk to him,” he said.

Asked about the various retaliatory measures he was considering, Mr. Trump, who in recent days has talked about the possible introduction of punitive customs taxes, was both evasive and threatening.

“There are a lot of things we could do. We could end all relationships,” he said.

“If we did it, what would happen?” He continued. “We would save $ 500 billion if we cut all ties,” said President Trump, a veteran of warnings.

“What has happened to the world and to our country is very sad, all these deaths,” continued Donald Trump, criticized in the United States for his lack of empathy towards the victims.

“They could have arrested him”

“They could have stopped it (the virus) in China, where it came from. But it did not happen like that,” said the American president, who will run for a second term on November 3. He had made the good health of the economy one of his main campaign arguments.

Beijing claims to have transmitted all the information as quickly as possible to the World Health Organization (WHO) and to other countries, including the United States.

The two largest economic powers in the world are engaged in a verbal escalation with an uncertain outcome.

“While the United States and its allies coordinate for a collective, transparent response to save lives, China continues to silence scientists, journalists and citizens and to spread disinformation,” said Mike Pompeo on Thursday, head of American diplomacy.

Senators from his Republican camp, very upset against Beijing, presented a bill on Tuesday that would give the president the power to impose sanctions on China if it did not transparently help to shed light on the origin of disease.

Washington on Wednesday accused Beijing of trying to hack into US research into a vaccine for the new coronavirus.

“China’s attempts to target the (health and research) sectors pose a serious threat to our country’s response to Covid-19,” said federal police (FBI).

Beijing immediately denounced this “American defamation”.

“China is at the forefront of research into vaccines and treatment for Covid-19. Therefore, it has more reason than anyone to be wary of the theft of information on the internet,” said Zhao Lijian , spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Asked about any evidence he would have to show that the virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, Mr. Trump was Thursday much less categorical than in the past, even seeming to backtrack.

“We have a lot of information (…) But you know, worst of all, whether the virus came from the laboratory or from the bats, it is that it came from China and that they should have stop it. “

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Yellow fever epidemic with 89 cases and one death

The secretary general of the Ivorian presidency Patrick Achi, one of the closest collaborators of President Alassane Ouattara, announced Thursday on social networks that he was affected by the coronavirus.

“This Thursday, April 16, I tested positive for Covid-19. So I am confined to my home although I have no symptoms,” said Achi on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Aged 64, Mr. Achi is close to the president whom he often meets. Several times minister, he succeeded in January 2017 as secretary general to Amadou Gon Coulibaly, another close friend of the president when he was appointed Prime Minister.

Mr. Gon Coulibaly was also designated as the candidate for the Ouattara coalition for the presidential election in October 2020.

“I am followed by wonderful health workers who will surely help me overcome this ordeal,” writes Mr. Achi on the networks, stressing: “This is the place to remember that this virus is extremely contagious. I therefore invite you again to strict compliance with barrier measures, social distancing and screening in order to stop the spread of the virus together. “

Achi is the second political figure, after Defense Minister Hamed Bakayoko, known as “Hambak”, to be affected by the virus.

“Hambak”, another key man in President Ouattara’s regime, announced on April 6, also on social media, that he was infected with coronavirus. He has not given official news since.

He was behind Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly for the 2020 presidential election, when many observers believed that he was more charismatic and better able to represent the ruling party.

Côte d’Ivoire has 688 confirmed cases and six deaths from coronavirus, according to the latest official report.

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Fight against the return of dengue fever

“You have to cover your goods!” advises Dr Fofana to a vegetable seller from Abidjan, while thick smoke insecticide invades the street to kill mosquitoes carrying dengue fever, a sometimes fatal disease that returns to Côte d’Ivoire.

An epidemic has declared since May in this West African country, where 130 cases and two deaths have been recorded.

To thwart the spread of this “re-emerging” disease on a global scale which appeared in West Africa in 2006, the health authorities are carrying out a mosquito control and awareness campaign in the Ivorian economic capital, Abidjan, where the majority of cases have been detected.

“Larvae multiply in stagnant water, for example in used tires. You should never store water in a bucket in the open air at home, and regularly throw water from the saucers of green plants”, advises Dr Diakaria Fofana, deputy head of vector control at the National Institute of Public Hygiene (INHP).

This medical anthropologist supervises one of the teams responsible for spraying a larvicidal product in the stagnant waters of the city, a work of Sisyphus in an agglomeration of five million inhabitants, especially in the middle of the rainy season.

Without a vaccine available in Côte d’Ivoire and in the absence of specific treatment against dengue fever, responsible for thousands of deaths per year worldwide, mainly in children, “the only effective means of control is the fight against the mosquito, “says the doctor.

The mode of transmission of dengue fever is similar to that of malaria: female mosquitoes become infected by biting someone who carries the virus, which they then inoculate with other humans.

In the vast majority of cases, dengue remains “silent”, but asymptomatic patients can still infect mosquitoes that bite them, thus participating in the cycle of contamination.

– “Big brother of malaria” –

In Côte d’Ivoire, where malaria accounts for a third of medical consultations, many Ivorians resort to self-medication when they experience the symptoms they are used to (fever, nausea, body aches, vomiting).

“This is a real problem because the symptoms of malaria, dengue fever, typhoid or yellow fever are similar. It is absolutely necessary to have a blood test,” insists Dr Fofana, explaining that unsuitable medicines can make the situation worse.

There is a vaccine against dengue fever, but Côte d’Ivoire does not currently have one because it “has a lot of side effects, it is expensive and does not take into account the four types of dengue fever”, according to Professor Joseph Vroh Benié Bi, director of the INHP.

Developed by the French pharmaceutical group Sanofi Pasteur and approved at the end of 2015 in several Latin American and Asian countries, the first dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia) is also suspected of being the cause of the death of a ten children. The Philippine government launched proceedings against the laboratory in March.

Half of the world’s population is now at risk of dengue fever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), mainly in tropical and subtropical regions as well as in urban and semi-urban areas.

The WHO estimates at 50 million the number of annual cases, including 500,000 cases of dengue hemorrhagic which are fatal in 2.5% of the cases.

Less deadly than malaria, which caused 435,000 deaths in 2017 worldwide according to the WHO, dengue fever is progressing and has affected Europe where the first two cases were recorded in 2010. Thus in France, “the vector mosquito is established in 18 French departments “out of 101, according to the Pasteur Institute.

In Côte d’Ivoire, where an epidemic in 2017 had already caused the death of two people, the threat is taken seriously by the inhabitants.

“We know the risks”, says Bamba Segbe, an Abidjan resident who came to attend the spectacular mosquito control operation, before adding: “It is not for nothing that we call dengue fever the big brother of malaria “.

With AFP

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Opportunity Martian robot now out of service

The Opportunity robot, which has been traveling on Mars since 2004 and confirmed that water once flowed there, was officially declared out of service by NASA on Wednesday, marking the end of one of the most successful missions in the history of l exploration of the solar system.

“I declare the Opportunity mission over,” said NASA chief scientist Thomas Zurbuchen at a press conference in Pasadena, California, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from which the American rovers are piloted.

“Even if it’s a machine, it’s hard to say goodbye, it’s poignant,” said program manager John Callas.

Contact had been lost since June 10, 2018, when a dust storm engulfed the red planet, darkened the atmosphere for several months, and prevented the rover from recharging its batteries with its solar panels.

After eight months and more than a thousand messages sent from Earth remained unanswered, NASA had decided that the last attempt would take place Tuesday evening. “We heard nothing in return, so it’s time to say goodbye,” said John Callas.

Over the months of silence, the community of researchers and engineers involved in the program seemed to have prepared their mourning for the legendary rover.

“Swallowed by a giant dust storm encompassing the entire planet: is there a more suitable end for a mission as perfect and courageous as that of Opportunity?” said Frank Hartman, who has been driving the robot for seven years.

“It is a celebration of such success,” said NASA chief Jim Bridenstine.

Its record is extraordinary in the history of planetary exploration: 45.16 kilometers traveled, more than the Soviet rover Lunokhod 2 on the Moon in the 1970s and more than the rover driven by the American astronauts from the Apollo 17 mission on the Moon in 1972 (35 km).

Opportunity also sent to Earth 217,594 images, all made available to the public on the internet.

– One active rover –

Robots had landed on Mars before him, but each time in flat places, without the ability to move to explore rocks or mountains visible from a distance.

“We were stuck, and it unlocked us,” said Jennifer Trosper, engineer working on the successor to Opportunity, dubbed March 2020.

“For the general public, Mars has become this dynamic place that can be explored every day,” said Emily Lakdawalla, a space exploration expert who writes for the Planetary Society.

“The rover was so mobile that it seemed to be an animated creature,” she said. “He had this quasi-human perspective on the surface of Mars, his eyes were spread apart like human eyes, at a height of about 1.50 meters from the ground, like humans. It was like an avatar of humanity who was traveling on the surface. “

Opportunity had landed on a large plain where he spent half his life, crossing kilometers of flat land and even being trapped for a few weeks in a sand dune. This is where the robot, with its geological instruments, confirmed that liquid water was once on Mars.

The second part of his life, he climbed the sides of the Endeavor crater, taking spectacular panoramic shots … and discovering veins of gypsum, new proof that water was flowing between these rocks.

His twin Spirit had landed three weeks before him, and died in 2010. The two largely fulfilled the expectations of their designers: their missions were supposed to last 90 days, durations often exceeded but rarely as much …

Only one rover remains active on Mars, also American: Curiosity, which landed in 2012. It is not dependent on the Sun because its energy comes from a small nuclear reactor.

In 2021, it will be joined, on another site on the planet, by the robot recently named Rosalind Franklin, as part of the European-Russian mission ExoMars.

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In addition to Ebola, the DRC affected by cholera and measles epidemics

“Peacekeepers are not the cure for Covid-19, but they do have a place in the fight against the virus,” said UN peacekeeper Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

The Covid-19 pandemic strikes countries that are at peace as well as those ravaged by armed conflict. For Jean-Pierre Lacroix, there is cause for concern for “people who already live in fragile political environments, in societies affected by conflict or recovering from conflict, with little or no infrastructure or health and social safety nets ”.

Concerns shared by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which warned on Wednesday that 200,000 people have been displaced in Libya where fighting continues and where health infrastructure has been destroyed.

“The security challenges are now coupled with serious health concerns posed by the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus,” warned the IOM.

In conflict countries, many communities do not have access to clean water. This makes handwashing difficult as one of the ways to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Next to it, economies are collapsing; increasing the vulnerability of women. On the other hand, the collapse of the economy diminishes their ability to feed themselves and their families. The situation is more critical if “these families live under the threat of armed groups or terrorist acts”, worries Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

“Just as a body defends itself less well against the virus if its immune system is weakened, populations deprived of health systems or safety nets are even more vulnerable to the pandemic and its consequences. The same is true of the areas where our peacekeepers operate. Civilians are the most vulnerable there, ”he said.

According to the head of the peacekeepers, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali are countries which know a fragile peace and where the populations have already suffered too much because of the armed conflicts spanning long months.

“We continue to patrol while applying the rules of social distancing and we have intensified our use of online resources”, underlines Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

To stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the missions also comply with precautionary measures, including quarantine and containment regardless of where they are deployed, he reassures.

The missions also support the efforts of the national authorities to contain the disease, through their means of communication and by maintaining essential supply chains. “Our staff educate communities about the coronavirus, through local radios and social networks, or during patrols,” adds Mr. Lacroix.

Work that is not without risk. According to the New Humanitarian, this week four UN staff have tested positive for coronavirus in South Sudan where there is fragile peace.

“We need the support of our member states more than ever. Their willingness to maintain their commitments to peacekeeping operations is crucial to ensuring our assistance capacity, “pleads Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

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DRC is going through the worst Ebola epidemic ever recorded in the country

The coronavirus pandemic has added to the already long list of health threats and armed conflicts in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where restrictive measures further complicate the work of aid workers.

In total, eastern DRC recorded 21 cases of Covid-19, very little compared to the capital Kinshasa (1,594) 2,000 km away.

“The Covid-19 crisis must not make us forget the atrocities that continue”, warned on Tuesday the gynecologist Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize 2018, himself at the head of care teams in the South -Kivu.

Nearly 300 civilians have been massacred since March in Ituri, where the violence of an ethno-mystical armed group has caused the displacement of 200,000 people according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

In North Kivu, 15 people were killed in 48 hours in the Beni region, stronghold of the formidable Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Eleven small armed groups active in the territory of Lubero declared Monday “the immediate cessation of hostilities”, but without referring to the virus. “We are ready to lay down our arms,” ​​said warlord Guidon, in a costume video with a mask.

In South Kivu, the Congolese army observes a “lull” in the conflict between local communities and the Banyamulenge, Tutsi Congolese herders with distant Rwandan origins.

– Raise awareness by phone –

And in Tanganyika, the same Congolese army is “on the alert” due to a border dispute with Zambia.

“March 2020 was one of the least deadly months for civilians since the start of our surveys (47 deaths recorded, compared to 88 on average)”, summarizes an expert from the Kivu Security Barometer (KST), who has been tracking violence in the two provinces of Kivu since 2017.

“But since then, violence has resumed (85 civilians killed) and the number of clashes in April is even higher than the average with 60 clashes during the month against 51 on average,” he added.

“No, conflicts do not end with epidemics,” said International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson Fatima Sator.

“The coronavirus epidemic adds to the long list of already existing problems: several armed conflicts, other epidemics such as measles, cholera, Ebola, malaria, and very great difficulties in accessing healthcare for populations “, she summarizes.

“We are continuing our actions in the East but adapting to preventive measures,” adds the ICRC. “For example, we are continuing our awareness-raising sessions with armed groups. Before, we did this during meetings with the actors concerned, but today we are raising their awareness on the phone.”

“The coronavirus must not jeopardize the response to other health emergencies,” warns the NGO Médecins sans frontières (MSF), which is committed against Covid-19 but also against Ebola and measles.

NGO officials are concerned about the influx of internally displaced people in Ituri.

“I don’t think the Covid-19 is the first concern for these people. They have makeshift shelters, or even no shelter at all, no shower, not enough latrines” according to Avra ​​Fiala, in charge of MSF communication.

The province of North Kivu reinstated restrictive measures on Wednesday morning (isolation and night curfew in Goma) with the reappearance of new cases.

The governor had lifted these measures a few weeks ago with the healing of the first cases.

The three eastern provinces (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu) live at the time of closing the borders with neighboring countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi).

Stranded in Burundi, several hundred Congolese were able to return to their country on Tuesday, before the presidential election on Wednesday in the “small country”.

“The borders are closed for people, but the goods pass,” said an official from the Directorate General of Migration (DMG) at one of the two border crossings with Rwanda in Goma.

This importation of goods from Rwanda is vital to contain the soaring prices of meat in Bukavu: “With the closing of borders, the price of a cow had increased from 500 to 600 dollars to 800 or even 900 dollars”, testifies Dieudonné Byaombe, head of the Elakat slaughterhouse.

“Since May 11, we have been welcoming three to four trucks full of cows from Rwanda as in the past as per day. We are breathing with these flexibility measures,” he added. A fight against the rise in prices all the more vital as the Congolese franc falls against the dollar (1,900 for a dollar).

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Campaign against malaria in the DRC

“Peacekeepers are not the cure for Covid-19, but they do have a place in the fight against the virus,” said UN peacekeeper Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

The Covid-19 pandemic strikes countries that are at peace as well as those ravaged by armed conflict. For Jean-Pierre Lacroix, there is cause for concern for “people who already live in fragile political environments, in societies affected by conflict or recovering from conflict, with little or no infrastructure or health and social safety nets ”.

Concerns shared by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which warned on Wednesday that 200,000 people have been displaced in Libya where fighting continues and where health infrastructure has been destroyed.

“The security challenges are now coupled with serious health concerns posed by the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus,” warned the IOM.

In conflict countries, many communities do not have access to clean water. This makes handwashing difficult as one of the ways to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Next to it, economies are collapsing; increasing the vulnerability of women. On the other hand, the collapse of the economy diminishes their ability to feed themselves and their families. The situation is more critical if “these families live under the threat of armed groups or terrorist acts”, worries Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

“Just as a body defends itself less well against the virus if its immune system is weakened, populations deprived of health systems or safety nets are even more vulnerable to the pandemic and its consequences. The same is true of the areas where our peacekeepers operate. Civilians are the most vulnerable there, ”he said.

According to the head of the peacekeepers, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali are countries which know a fragile peace and where the populations have already suffered too much because of the armed conflicts spanning long months.

“We continue to patrol while applying the rules of social distancing and we have intensified our use of online resources”, underlines Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

To stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the missions also comply with precautionary measures, including quarantine and containment regardless of where they are deployed, he reassures.

The missions also support the efforts of the national authorities to contain the disease, through their means of communication and by maintaining essential supply chains. “Our staff educate communities about the coronavirus, through local radios and social networks, or during patrols,” adds Mr. Lacroix.

Work that is not without risk. According to the New Humanitarian, this week four UN staff have tested positive for coronavirus in South Sudan where there is fragile peace.

“We need the support of our member states more than ever. Their willingness to maintain their commitments to peacekeeping operations is crucial to ensuring our assistance capacity, “pleads Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

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