“Everything is quiet here at the moment, no case has yet been established,” says Dr. Aye, head of the department set up in Walé to deal with the new coronavirus. A Committee has therefore been set up with the responsibility of managing the crisis, in direct contact with the Health Unit of the Yamoussoukro district and the staff, who currently work alternately, are aware of all the procedures.
The Walé Medical Centre, three hours away from the capital of Ivory Coast, was set up in 2004 with the aim of guaranteeing health care to those who are unable to bear the costs. Seven hundred consultations a day are carried out at Walé; quality services at an affordable price. The most common diseases are related to malaria, HIV and malnutrition. “For us it is an everyday emergency, but this time it is different; a state of panic is spreading among the people”.
The Government has started some containment measures, to date (31.03.2020) there are 165 cases confirmed on the national territory but “Given our health system and the resistance of many people to go to hospital, the number of infected people can be much higher“. And then maintaining distances is not so easy “How do you ensure distance on public transport? People have to go out every day in order to eat; this virus is scary“.
Ivory Coast is one of the best bets in Africa, with a high growth rate and a focus on diversification of the economy, but even today a third of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.
It is not the disease itself that is intimidating, but the weakness of the infrastructure: “If the epidemic broke out, our health system would be immediately overwhelmed. Someone told me that there are only twenty intensive care beds in Abidjan (for a population between 5 and 6 million inhabitants) and they are already occupied at the moment“.
And this is true for the Capital, where there is only one Centre -the Pasteur Institute- for the analysis and diagnosis of the virus; in the inland rural areas the situation is even more catastrophic from the point of view of infrastructure and the health conditions of the people, with malnutrition afflicting over 75% of children, despite the fact that the country is one of the largest exporters of agricultural resources in the world.
In Ivory Coast, public hospital care is generally not affordable for the majority of the population, especially the cost of medicines is difficult to afford. “Here the patient is at the centre, in its entirety; we offer treatment and medicines at a cost of two dollars a day and so people are encouraged to come and get treatment” but the income is not enough to face this new crisis “At the moment we have diverted the contributions received towards the purchase of the necessary tools and equipment“. The staff is ready and knows that you can only deal with one day at a time.