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Tunisia’s COVID-19 crisis is not of its own making

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In the last few weeks, with the rise of the Delta variant across the world, Tunisia has been gripped by another COVID-19 surge. The reported total death toll of more than 20,000 is harrowing in a country of about 12 million people. It is now the country with the highest coronavirus mortality rate per capita in the MENA region and in Africa.

The pandemic-hit North African nation, however, is not the only country struggling to respond effectively to this public health emergency. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the Global South, many developing countries suffering from poor governance, overstretched hospitals and low vaccination rates are also experiencing pandemic related catastrophes similar to the one currently under way in Tunisia.

In Tunisia, decades of poor governance and lack of investment in the healthcare system have led to the terrible reality where any health emergency can quickly turn into an unmanageable situation. The persistent political instability in the country – which had three presidents and eight prime ministers since the 2011 revolution – has made it difficult to implement long term, sustainable and effective health policies.

It is not a surprise that the factors that hindered Tunisia’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis effectively are similar to those that have limited the response capacity in countries like Lebanon, South Africa and Cuba throughout this public health emergency. In these countries and many others in the Global South, people took to the streets in large numbers to protest against their governments because the pandemic added further urgency to the existing threats of medical and economic collapse.

In Tunisia, the public’s deep dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the COVID crisis was an important reason behind the anti-government protests that led President Kais Saied to suspend Parliament on July 25 and plunge the country into another political crisis.

Since then, however, Saied’s politically motivated actions have not helped but further hindered Tunisian institutions’ ability to implement the necessary measures to stem the spread of the Delta variant. For example, on August 1, as the number of new cases,........

© Al Jazeera

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