- Title: As pandemic spreads, Congo poet warns of empty cooking pots
- Date: 2nd July 2020
- Summary: KINSHASA, DRC (RECENT) (REUTERS) YEKIMA WEARING A MASK WALKING UP TO HIS FRIEND WEARING A MASK AND GREETING EACH OTHER WITH THE ELBOWS IN THE STREET IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF BARUMBU THAT STRADDLES GOMBE DISTRICT WHICH WAS IN LOCKDOWN SINCE APRIL AND IS WHERE CONFINEMENT MEASURES ARE BEING EASED GRADUALLY FROM JUNE 29 NEIGHBOURHOOD BOUNDARY, GOMBE IS CLOSED OFF WITH A BURNED OUT CAR AND TYRES AND CORRUGATED IRON RESIDENT TALKING TO THE POLICE GUARDING ENTRANCE TO GOMBE POLICE MOVING A TYRE AT THE CHECKPOINT (SOUNDBITE) (French) CONGOLESE SINGER YEKIMA DE BEL ARTS, SAYING: "Here we are right up against la Gombe (neighbourhood that is in lockdown), meaning we can cross over, as you can see. Sometimes we negotiate with the police, sometimes we just cross, so we go to the other side. Now yes, we make sure we have, that we wear a mask or that we put disinfectant on our hands, or not, and we cross. So the worst thing is that you have two neighbourhoods, two situations, side by side, as they are. Except that one lives a little bit relaxed, during this COVID-19 situation, and the other, which is in lockdown, is a bit more protected. That's it"
- Embargoed: 16th July 2020 13:02
- Keywords: Coronavirus Covid restrictions Hunger Kinshasa Poverty
- Location: KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
- City: KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
- Country: Congo, Democratic Republic of the
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA005CL48AQF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Afro Slam artist Yekima de Bel Arts says it is important to follow the measures put in place to stop the spread of the Coronavirus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
But in his latest song Mpiak'Corona, a contraction of 'Mpiaka' which in Lingala slang means 'lacking' or 'No Have' and Corona, he warns against the failure to support the most vulnerable, especially in the capital Kinshasa where many of the 12 million residents live precariously in overcrowded neighbourhoods with frequent power and water cuts.
"They are already telling us to be careful, outside there is an illness with the name COVID. But since then what we get is an empty cup, an empty cooking pot, an empty dinner table. From now on 'no have' (Mpiak) blends with Corona," says Yekima in his song.
He sings about the social and cultural habits of the thousands of people who live on top of each other in the noisy Kinshasa's shanty towns, shattered by the restrictions.
"We got used to the nuisance of noise, on the same street: bar - church, bar - church. All of a sudden the silence hit us and it's too much. No doubt, since all this started, many habits have changed" he says in his song.
Yekima says he comes from the same streets he sings about. It is a cry from the heart. And whilst he uses the song to encourage people to protect themselves by washing their hands, coughing in their arms and praises the health workers tending to the victims of the Coronavirus he also calls on the government to find ways of compensating the poorest for their losses.
Standing in his neighbourhood of Barumbu, Yekima looks at a makeshift checkpoint set up with a burned out car and old tyres to mark the start of La Gombe, the business district that has been in lockdown since April. considered the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic in Kinshasa it includes the Big Market which is also closed.
Passage in and out of La Gombe is restricted but here, in the side streets, controls are not that thorough as people negotiate with the police manning the checkpoints. But he says the contrast between a protected zone and the adjoining streets stands as a reminder of the inequalities between the 'haves' and the 'have nots', those who are protected against the virus and those who are not and how COVID-19 has deepened those economic differences.
Renaming the virus the 'hunger-rona' Yekima says "We don't want to survive this pandemic to die of hunger".
After the first cases of the coronavirus were declared in Kinshasa food prices doubled. Price-gouging by some traders forced the government to abandon its original confinement policy and implement a more limited lockdown in Gombe, downtown Kinshasa.
Cases have multiplied in the central African nation despite the imposition of short-term lockdowns in some urban centres and restrictions on movement. A lack of local testing has fanned fears the virus is spreading undetected.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has warned that many Congolese were waiting days and sometimes weeks to receive test results as the country only had one laboratory running tests.
Sub-Saharan Africa's gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 3.2% this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Monetary Fund said last week, more than a previous estimated contraction of 1.6%.
So far, Congo has recorded more than 6,939 COVID-19 cases, the vast majority in Kinshasa (6,136), and over 166 deaths.
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