Missionary fears for the worst in Central African Republic as Covid-19 spreads

There are only 50 ICU beds to serve a population of 4.6 million people.(Photo: Reuters)

A Carmelite missionary in the Central African Republic (CAR) is fearing for the worst as coronavirus continues to spread around the impoverished country. 

While CAR had hoped to be spared the worst of the pandemic, cases have continued to rise since May and now stand at over 4,600. 

Father Aurelio Gazzera told Agenzia Fides that the situation on the ground is “much worse” than the official data shows because there is very little in the way of testing, particularly in rural areas. 

“We do not know if the official numbers really correspond to the real situation,” he said. 

Local churches, supported by the Italian Bishops’ Conference and Caritas USA, have being doing what they can to promote good hygiene practices and distribute protective equipment to limit the spread of the virus, with a particular focus on supporting the elderly and disabled. 

Father Aurelio said the conditions in CAR were already “difficult” as malaria is widespread in the country, and there are also high rates of tuberculosis and HIV. 

Despite the scale of the need, CAR has been impoverished by years of conflict and has only limited healthcare, with just 50 ICU beds, all of them in capital Bangui. Elsewhere, there are few hospital wards or drugs to treat the sick. 

Father Aurelio fears the spread of coronavirus has been exacerbated by the government adopting the “wrong strategy” of closing airports while keeping open the land border with Cameroon, where the situation is much worse.

The missionary’s concerns come as Christian Aid warns of a “catastrophe” in developing nations, including on the African continent. 

“Without immediate and decisive action, a crisis in the poorest countries threatens to escalate into a catastrophe that will cause untold human suffering, entrench inequalities and slow any recovery,” Christian Aid said.

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