July 26, 2021

In Tunisia, an Eid festival mourning the health crisis

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Emergency department of Charles-Nicolle hospital, in Tunis, July 16, 2021.

At 6 am, Tuesday July 20, the streets of Tunis are still deserted. It seems a long time ago when the faithful wished each other a happy Eid festival, on the sidewalks, just after prayer. This year, the virulence of the health crisis in Tunisia is poisoning the atmosphere, pushing the great feast of sacrifice, one of the most important on the Muslim calendar, to the background. The 150 daily deaths recorded in recent days in a country of 12 million inhabitants and the lack of oxygen in hospitals make many Tunisians want to celebrate.

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Amor Ghedifi, 67 years old and a retired engineer, enjoys his morning coffee, the surgical mask on his chin. “My heart is not there, when I went out this morning, I even forgot to wish Aidek Mabrouk to my neighbors, because I usually do it right after the mosque. This year, everything is closed. Since 1980, I went every year to say my prayers, say hello to my friends and then I would slaughter the sheep, there it is not the same », he said. In a week, he lost four of his neighborhood friends to Covid-19. “I bought the sheep for the children, but our priorities are clearly elsewhere, explains Semia, 38, who went out to buy bread. I am very worried about their future and the situation of the country. “

The country has 17,644 deaths from Covid and, since the beginning of July, the health system has struggled to support the influx of patients. Many countries, associations and individuals have been mobilizing for days to deliver vaccines, oxygen and equipment to relieve hospitals. After receiving new doses of vaccines this week, the health ministry announced the day before Eid that vaccination would be open to all people over the age of 18 during the two days off from the festivities. . One way to speed up the campaign when only 8% of the population has already received their two doses.

” My heart is hurting me “

Despite the many donations and the international mobilization that followed the call for help launched in early July by the authorities, the country is not at the end of its troubles. Sunday, the video of a doctor crying because of the lack of oxygen in his hospital in Mateur, about sixty kilometers from Tunis, went around the Internet, raising strong popular emotion.

In front of hospitals, like that of Charles-Nicolle, in Tunis, some are waiting for news from their relatives. Nejiba Ghedira, 66, comes every day to see his mother, who has been hospitalized for a week. “Yesterday she was lacking oxygen. I hope that things are better today and that they were able to find a solution for him ”, breathes Nejiba, who puts on a gown and a second mask before heading to the hospital’s covid service. “When people wish me Aidek Mabrouk in the street, my heart hurts. What holiday are we talking about in such a context? “, she blurted out.

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Others, faced with the gloomy economic situation of the country, try to take advantage of the celebrations, such as these groups of young people on the roadside who light makeshift barbecues to cook the heads and paws of the sheep. “We charge for the service between 5 and 8 dinars (between 1.50 and 2.50 euros). Covid or not Covid, we are out of work, so this is one of the only days when we can earn a good jackpot ”, explains one of them.

Some have chosen to redistribute their sheep’s money to help hospitals. like Lassad Jeffel, a 62-year-old taxi driver, has been sacrificing the animal himself for three decades. But this year, by mutual agreement with his wife and children, he donated his Eid budget to a fundraiser to buy an oxygen concentrator for a patient. Usually he gives a little money to help the poorest buy a sheep, “But this year, everything is going for the patients of the Covid” he insists.

“Form of schizophrenia”

Shiraz Manai, she convinced her mother, yet a sheep farmer, not to sacrifice the beast this year and to offer it to people in need. “We also help hospitals as we can, by giving them masks and foodstuffs”, indicates this 28-year-old communicator.

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She deplores that some continue to violate the health protocol despite the gravity of the crisis. “There is a form of schizophrenia. On Facebook, everyone is relaying the security measures and taking pictures of those who do not respect the sanitary restrictions, but the cafes are always full and the supermarkets armored for the races before Eid. Many people remain irresponsible in the face of illness ”, she laments.

Samia Ben Abdallah, 41, architect and designer, went to her mother’s house to pick up beef kebabs and slata méchouïa, the pepper salad that accompanies the Eid mechoui. “I remained masked, outside her home. We said goodbye with a wave of the hand and a smile in our eyes, as a gesture signifying our helplessness and our acceptance of events ”, says Samia. She wants to take advantage of the opening to all of the vaccination centers to try to get her first dose.