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From yesterday to today: health and political threats generated by major epidemics

The COVID-19 pandemic was a reminder of the vulnerability of our societies and our interdependence. Humans must both accept uncertainty and show humility: they cannot control everything, they must learn to cope with risks -natural or health-related- and respond to crises with a range of measures, of different natures and on different scales of time and space. The great epidemics have crossed the centuries, and each time have questioned our societies in their foundations and our relationship to others. Every crisis is complex and everyone has a role to play in overcoming it and building a more resilient society: citizens, politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, etc.

This week we are giving the floor to four of our members to better understand the complexity created by this new pandemic.

Ghislain de Marsily, a hydrologist and member of the Academy of Sciences, looked at an older crisis, the plague in Marseille in 1720, to better understand the current crisis. What are the similarities despite the gap of three centuries and what lessons can be drawn from it?

Painting of Michel Serre: Marseille’s plague

President Jair Bolsonaro – photo credit: Adriano Machado /Reuters

Mirdad Kazanji, virologist, head of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana, and Sergio Makarakis, researcher at the State University of Western Paraná, Brazil, shed light on the health situation in Brazil, which threatens to be the new epicentre of the epidemic.

Papa Abdoulaye Seck, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment of Senegal, Ambassador of the Republic of Senegal in Rome and Senegalese Ambassador to the FAO, comes back to our paper published last week on population containment in Africa and discusses the food needs which, according to him, require several changes in the African agricultural sector.

We will have the opportunity next week to give him the floor again by specifically addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on agriculture and the threats of food shortages.

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Dakar market, Senegal – Photo credit: Camille Moirenc

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