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Photos of numbers to call for oxygen concentrators, calls for help from doctors, hashtags #SaveTunisia and #VaccineForTunisia: for the past few weeks, in Tunisia, Facebook has been living at the rate of the Covid-19 pandemic which stops getting worse in the country.
The social network, which has 7 million users in a country of 12 million inhabitants, is also one of the vectors of the chain of solidarity being organized with Tunisians abroad. A diaspora that represents more than 1.5 million people, including more than 700,000 in France.
“We have already collected nearly 71,000 euros in ten days and ordered around ten 10-liter oxygen concentrators as well as FFP2 masks”, says Mehdi Bouchair, 34, pharmacist based in Bizerte (north) and vice-president of the Lost and Found Tunisia mutual aid association in Tunisia.
The collection was made possible thanks to the participation of five Tunisian associations from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. A gesture which required to overcome some reluctance. “Donors wanted to know where the money would go and expressed their refusal to give to embassies or to the state”, explains Mehdi Bouchair.
Distrust of the state
The health crisis is part of a gloomy political climate within the country and general mistrust of institutions. In spring 2020, during confinement, the Tunisian state had set up a solidarity fund that raised nearly 62 million euros. But its management and the distribution of funding in the fight against the pandemic have been criticized for their opacity.
“We are following the same path as Lebanon after the explosion of the port of Beirut where everyone asked to give to associations and not to the State”, confirms Lotfi Hamadi, founder of the Wallah We Can association and member of the Nafassni collective (“Let us breathe”) which plans to publish all the figures for aid and donations received both from the WHO and from foreign countries.
Despite this distrust of the State, civil society is organizing itself to face a health situation qualified as “Catastrophic” by the authorities. The country records an average of 100 to 150 deaths per day from Covid-19, the highest death rate on the continent.
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