Donations are being sought to save Tunisia from the Covid disaster.

Other countries and even individuals have stepped in to help Tunisia’s health system, which is on the verge of collapsing due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Equipment and vaccine donations have been organized by European and Gulf countries, Tunisians living abroad, and regular citizens to help combat the pandemic.

Even before Covid-19 hit hard, the small North African nation of 12 million people was struggling to come up with the requisite vaccination doses.

More than three million doses have now been sent, most of which were donated, with the number expected to reach five million by mid-August, according to the health ministry.

China and the United Arab Emirates each provided 500,000 doses, with Algeria providing 250,000.

According to the French minister of Europe and foreign affairs, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, France alone sent almost one million AstraZeneca and Janssen dosages this week, enough to vaccinate “a tenth of the adult population.”

Vaccines, however, have been delayed due to Tunisia’s tardy diplomatic efforts or a global scarcity of dosages.

Tunisia has only received a sixth of the vaccine doses promised under the Covax initiative, which was established to promote a more equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations to low-income countries.

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It presently has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world.

Tunisia had 1.4 daily deaths per 100,000 people over the previous seven days, according to an AFP count based on government reports on Wednesday, making it the world’s second-worst country on this criteria, behind Namibia.

-Overflowing morgues-

Tunisian internet users have shared videos showing distraught families unable to obtain beds for their loved ones, doctors concerned about oxygen shortages, and bodies crowded into overflowing morgues.

According to Dr. Hechmi Louzir of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, donations will allow the vaccine effort to move more quickly, reducing the virus’s spread.

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He predicted that Tunisia may “reach our aim of vaccinating around 50% of the population by mid-October.”

Tunisia’s public hospitals suffered from bad management and a lack of resources even in ‘normal’ times before Covid.

They made a plea for support at the start of the summer, specifically for personal protection equipment and acute care supplies.

Fund-raising activities were held by organizations such as the country’s organization of young doctors, Tunisian embassies overseas, and even private residents.

“Civil society’s mobilization spared Tunisia from a disastrous scenario,” said gynaecologist Cyrine Chedly, a member of a Kairouan-based group of young doctors.

The center city was one of the first areas to be severely affected by the pandemic, with some dead being kept in rooms with living patients for up to 24 hours due to a lack of employees to transport them to overburdened morgues.

“Oxygen concentrator donations have allowed us to lower the number of serious cases and deaths” at the city’s primary hospital, according to Dr. Chedly.

-Intensive care units (ICUs)-

Ons Jabeur, a well-known Tunisian tennis player who is competing in her third Olympic Games in Tokyo, auctioned two racquets for $27,000 to help fund an intensive care unit.

Prior to the epidemic, the country had only 90 public intensive care unit (ICU) beds; now, thanks to contributions, it has 500.

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Tunisians arriving from abroad are allowed to bring one oxygen concentrator into the country duty-free.

Doctors share photos of these and other donated products on social media to show how they are being used.

However, coordination issues and regulatory roadblocks can hinder the provision of more advanced health-care technology.

One field hospital supplied by the United States in May did not open until July, and another donated by Qatar is still closed due to a lack of oxygen.

Only one of three oxygen generators, each capable of feeding 300 beds continuously and delivered by France in early June, is fully operational.

Meanwhile, France and Italy have dispatched containers laden with oxygen cylinders to help compensate for the shortage.

Algeria, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have all supplied medical supplies.

Mauritania went so far as to promise to provide 15 tons of fish.

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Donations alone will not be enough to avert a crisis sparked by the public’s failure to follow preventative measures and political power struggles that have seen a succession of health ministers in the last year or two.

In Kairouan, Dr. Chedly observed, “We need public knowledge, sound management of the health problem by the government, and political stability.”


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