This article was originally published on 04.02.2020 on the French side of this website.
While the DRC was about to celebrate the end of the Ebola virus which consumed three provinces in the country since August 2018, the coronavirus is unpacking its suitcases in Kinshasa. A 52-year-old man who arrived on Sunday, March 8 in the Congolese capital from France is infected by the coronavirus. The news had the effect of a bomb among the population. So, DRC is the first country of the Great Lakes Region to be struck by the Chinese virus from Wuhan.
After 21 days without new cases of Ebola in the DRC, the population was starting to heave a sigh of relief. But this joy has been short-lived, given the arrival of the coronavirus in Kinshasa, a new descent into hell was starting, which nobody could predict the outcome at the time. We already knew that an epidemic could start in a single day, but that it could take months or even years to eradicate.
Does the DRC have the means to contain an epidemic like the coronavirus?
The government, through the Ministry of Health, is trying to reassure: the Ministry announced that the man suffering from coronavirus is already in quarantine and that inquiries are underway to find all those with whom he was in contact, from the airport to his hotel. A difficult task, if not impossible, given the overcrowded environments in which most of the inhabitants of Kinshasa live. The. Many even wonder why the DRC is becoming the country of all deadly epidemics: cholera, measles, Ebola and now coronavirus.
In my opinion, there are men and women in this country capable of defeating COVID-19, but the means are not sufficient. A few days ago, two Congolese scientists from the University of Lubumbashi presented a“protocol” capable of controlling the coronavirus. But to carry out their research, these two people, a man, and a woman need resources. AnotherCongolese researcher living in Montreal said he found a product that could defeat the virus. The question is: why are all these Congolese skills not financed by the government to help them materialize the results of their research?
The WHO had already warned African countries
Knowing the weakness of the health systems of African countries, the World Health Organization did ask Africa to prepare for the arrival of the coronavirus. Preparedness means injecting resources, building new hospitals and quarantine infrastructure. All this requires money and the Democratic Republic of Congo does not have any. It can hardly count on external aid because the donor countries (Italy, China, France, the United States, etc.) are themselves severely hit by the epidemic and devote their resources to fighting the illness at home. Europe has just made available 25 billion eurosto fight the coronavirus. While the DRC cannot even afford to allocate even a billion US dollars. As a consequence, the Congolese are turning to God and religion to be spared from the pandemic.
The psychosis is aggravated by the fact that the developed countries, with their large means, are incapable of controlling the coronavirus. Scientists are struggling to find a vaccine. Meanwhile, the world’s economies are on the brink of recession. Pending a possible vaccine, the recommended measures against the coronavirus are wearing a protective mask, washing hands, confinement, quarantine, etc. At present in the DRC, there is a shortage of masks in several pharmacies. Nevertheless, we must take all precautionary measures: wash our hands, cough in the crook of our elbow, avoid gatherings, hugs and handshakes.
Thermal cameras have been installed at several airports in the country. But in the event that confinement is necessary should the disease spread quickly to a large number of people, I imagine that it would not be easy to confine a city of 12 million inhabitants like Kinshasa. Especially since in order to live, ordinary citizens are forced to go out every day. In such a scenario, the epidemic would be difficult to contain in the Democratic Republic of Congo.