DRC (ANS) – A group of Pygmies from the Democratic Republic of Congo – already fleeing violence – are set to face further devastation as Coronavirus enters the nation, according to a report by Open Doors UK.
The charity says thousands of the largely Christian Pygmies have been driven from their homes in the country’s North Kivu province – an area where Islamic extremists are seeking to build a caliphate.
Open Doors added the displaced population, indigenous to the Congo rainforests, have fled to crowded and often unsanitary internally displaced persons (IDP) camps seeking refuge and safety.
Now, unable to isolate themselves, they face dire consequences from the COVID-19 outbreak.
“A widespread outbreak would be devastating,” says Jo Newhouse, Open Doors’ Head of Communications for Africa. “That’s especially true in the violence ravaged areas like North Kivu province.
“Christians uprooted by Allied Democratic Force rebels are already facing dire conditions. It will be very hard to practice social distancing in Internally Displaced People’s camps.”
The Congo, which has only just been declared clear of Ebola, currently has now declared a state of emergency in the country, with 98 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths so far.
However, Jo suggests that existing infrastructure put in place in the country to cope with Ebola may offer a glimmer of hope.
“It will be interesting to see how the recent Ebola outbreak prepared the country for this new danger,” she said.
The Pygmies of North Kivu Province are just one of many groups of displaced peoples at risk from COVID-19. There are currently an estimated 70.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide according to UN figures.
Henrietta Blyth, Open Doors CEO, said: “The Coronavirus could spell tragedy for millions of Christians around the world displaced because of their faith.
“There will be minimal healthcare and few chances for many of them to isolate if they become infected.
“Life is difficult right across the world right now. However, for the displaced and refugees like the Pygmies of DRC, this pandemic is potentially catastrophic.
“It’s vital that we don’t forget them at a time like this.”