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COVID-19: The latest world news viewed by IFGR

During this unprecedented period of global health crisis caused by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, IFGR shared with you the views of its members around the world from March to May 2020. Each of them regularly provided us with an overview of the epidemic in their country but also an analysis of what it reveals about our society and our interactions with Nature, according to their expertise. Health is one of the major topics of IFGR’s work, as it reveals the unity of the living world, from our rivers to human beings.



River transport in the context of environmental and climate issues: interview with Thierry Guimbaud, Director General of Voies navigables de France (VNF)

Thierry Guimbaud on Twitter: "Bravo pour ce travail avec nos ...

Water management in the light of the climate challenge. You will find here the continuation of Thierry Guimbaud’s interview talking about this resource and the need to preserve it, which remains a major issue in the context of global warming.

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River transport on the Rhone: interview with Pierre Meffre and Thomas San Marco, CNR

What about the river transport activity on the Rhone in this period of global health and economic crisis? As the river’s manager, CNR (Compagnie Nationale du Rhône) has among its missions to develop transport on the 330 km of waterway that link Lyon to the Mediterranean. Weakened by the current crisis, river transport is likely to face a more unpredictable activity in the coming months. In order to maintain its competitiveness and develop the waterway, several conditions are necessary according to Pierre Meffre, Director of Port Development and Thomas San Marco, General Delegate of CNR and Chairman of                                                                                    the Supervisory Board of Lyon Terminal.

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The situation of Amerindian populations of French Guyana: interview with Damien Davy, anthropologist at CNRS and Mirdad Kazanji, Institut Pasteur of French Guyana

French Guyana has come out of confinement but the situation remains difficult, particularly because of its proximity to Brazil. Along the Oyapock, the border river, live many Amerindian populations. Are they resistant to the epidemic and in what ways? Interview with Damien Davy, anthropologist, Director of the “Oyapock” Observatory for Men and the Environment at CNRS, who has been working for over 20 years in French Guyana in close contact with the Amerindian populations, and Mirdad Kazanji, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana, on the front line of the health battle with other health professionals and State services.

Read the interview


“Adaptation and Resilience: Ports as essential services” by Daniel DAGENAIS, Vice-President of Operations at the Port of Montreal

River ports play an indispensable role in transporting goods such as medical equipment and supplying essential businesses. Also affected by the Covid-19, the continuity of activities nevertheless remains fundamental. In his paper, Daniel Dagenais shows us how, in times of crisis, the Canadian inland waterway transport sector has adapted and reinvented itself.

Read his paper



Interview with Thierry GUIMBAUD, Director of Voies Navigables de France (VNF)

The Voies navigables de France (VNF) is a public institution that manages more than half of the French waterway network. Two of its missions are to guarantee the safety of the hydraulic network and the continuity of the transport of essential goods and products by inland waterway. Thierry Guimbaud talks to us about this sector, which has shown its resilience in times of containment.

Read his interview


“A treasure at Petit-Saut – The Unity of Life” by Erik ORSENNA, member of the French Academy,

Ambassador of the Institut Pasteur

Erik Orsenna does us the honour of sharing a preview with IFGR, of which he is the chairman, of a few pages of his forthcoming book “The Unity of Life”, published by Fayard/Stock and available in bookshops at the end of August 2020. In this extract entitled “A treasure at Petit-Saut”, he looks back at the many species discoveries made during the construction of the Petit-Saut dam in French Guyana, in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest, one of the richest areas on the planet in terms of biodiversity.

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Diagnosis of Covid-19, a complex infectious disease: interview with Mirdad KAZANJI, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana

Covid-19 keeps surprising us. The disease manifests itself with varied and different symptoms depending on the patients. New symptoms have recently been described. In addition to its contagiousness, the virus seems to be linked to a number of pathologies, making diagnosis complex. Only screening tests confirm the infection, but are they all reliable and available? Answers with Mirdad Kazanji.

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“What the current crisis is telling us about the agriculture and our food ” by Anne-Claire VIAL, chairman of Arvalis-Institute of Vegetal

Anne-Claire Vial gives us her analysis of the Covid-19 crisis through the prism of agriculture. Will the health crisis be combined with a food crisis? One fact is already certain for Anne-Claire Vial: this crisis leads us to rediscover the strategic stakes of agriculture and food for our security and sovereignty.

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“Health and food safety: same stakes, same challenges” by Jacques Brulhet, Vice-President of the French
Academy of Agriculture, and Papa Abdoulaye Seck, member of the French Academy of Agriculture

Papa Abdoulaye Seck, IFGR member, and his colleague Jacques Brulhet express their concerns about the future of the agricultural sector. They plead in favour of a “Common Food Policy” at the African and European regional levels.

Read their article


“Coronavirus and past pandemics” by Ghislain de MARSILY,  Professor Emeritus at the Pierre and Marie Curie University and at the École des Mines de Paris, Member of the Academy of Sciences

Membres | Initiatives pour l'Avenir des Grands Fleuves

History repeating itself. This is what Ghislain de Marsily reminds us by looking back at the plague that struck the city of Marseille in 1720 to better understand the current crisis. What are the similarities? What should we learn from them? If man creates borders, health, economic and climatic crises have none. Therefore, the response must be multilateral.

Read his article


Focus on the health situation in South America, with  Mirdad KAZANJI, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana

From his outpost at the Institut Pasteur, Mirdad Kazanji shares with us his fears about that moment where everything could change, considering the health challenges South America has to face and the explosive situation in Brazil.

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Testimony of Sergio MAKRAKIS, Associate professor and Researcher at the University of the State of Western Paraná, Brazil

Members | Initiatives pour l'Avenir des Grands Fleuves

Brazil is seeing the epidemic spreading dangerously by the day. Political tensions are running high between the federal government and the states to enforce strict containment rules and manage the health emergency, especially since the country is dependent on foreign countries for testing. Sergio Makrakis provides a provisional assessment of the situation.

Read his testimonial


“Management of COVID-19: confined African population and food needs”: Doctor Papa Abdoulaye SECK’s opinion column, Member of the French Academy of Agriculture and Ambassador of Senegal Republic in Italy

In a forum for the French Academy of Agriculture, Papa Abdoulaye Seck, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment of Senegal, Ambassador of the Republic of Senegal in Rome and Ambassador of Senegal to FAO, gives us his point of view on the health crisis in Africa, which comes on top of existing food insecurity and socio-economic inequalities. He gives 7 suggestions for farmers and policy makers to evolve their support strategy in this period of crisis.

Read his opinion column


Analysis of the situation in Africa, with the interviews of Hamed SEMEGA, Hight Commissioner of the OMVS and Mirdad KAZANJI, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana

As elsewhere in the world, the coronavirus pandemic poses major and multiple challenges to African countries, in terms of health but also political and economic responses. What is the current health situation? What are the continent’s weaknesses but also its strengths? Analysis with Hamed Semega, High Commissioner of the OMVS and Mirdad Kanzaji, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana who has worked for more than ten years in Africa.

To know more


Elisabeth AYRAULT’s opinion column, Chief Executive Officer of Compagnie nationale du Rhône (CNR)

At the origin of the creation of IFGR with its current chairman Erik Orsenna, Elisabeth Ayrault is pleased to contribute to the Covid-19 logbook. Through her opinion column, she supports the idea that political action alone will not be enough to meet the environmental and climate challenges. To build resilience, a systemic and integrated approach is needed. Companies also have a role to play in the energy transition and in building a sustainable future.

Read her opinion column


Testimonies of the situation in Argentina by Alfredo SESE, technical secretary of Transports and Infrastructure at the Rosario Commodity Exchange (BCR) and Ricardo Javier ALVAREZ, Vice-President of the Argentine subsidiary of the Ibero-American Maritime Law Institute (IIDM)

Argentina, the third largest economy in Latin America, has been experiencing a new economic crisis since 2018. Although the sanitary situation is for the moment under control thanks to a good quality sanitary system, our argentinean members express their concern about the spread of Covid-19 as the winter season approaches and its effects on the country’s economy, especially the grain market.

Read their testimonial


Interview with Hamed SEMEGA, High Commissioner of the Senegal River Development Organisation (OMVS)

Like China, Europe and the United States, the African continent is affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Fighting this as yet unknown virus requires concerted and coordinated action. Hamed Diane Semega reviews the various measures implemented at national and regional levels to limit the economic impacts of this health crisis

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Analysis of the keys to deconfinement and the state of vaccine research by Mirdad KAZANJI, virologist, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana

This week, Mirdad Kazanji outlines the conditions necessary for a successful deconfinement strategy and discusses the types of vaccines possible and the tremendous global research momentum for new vaccine leads.

To know more


Paper by Bernd GUNDERMANN, architect, founder and director of Urbia Group (New Zealand)

Geographer, architect and urban planner, Bernd Gundermann has been working for many years on innovative solutions to climate change. From New Zealand, where he is currently based, he considers the COVID-19 crisis as a “disruption” that requires us to individually and collectively rethink our systems of governance and our control over the environment.

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Paper by Pascal BOURDEAUX, historian, Associate Professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (France)

In his paper: “Covid-19 from East to West“, Pascal Bourdeaux gives us a fine analysis of many elements of comparison between the Asian (China, but also Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam) and European (European Union) situations and, as an extension, the representations that one makes of these situations, in order to better understand this global crisis.

Read the paper


Current situation in French Guiana and new insights into the epidemic by Mirdad KAZANJI, Doctor in virology, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana

In this second week, Mirdad Kazanji looks back at the development of the epidemic in French Guiana and sheds useful light on zoonoses and the link between damage to biodiversity and the development of these diseases.

Read the interview


Testimony of  Yangbo SUN, Director of International Cooperation of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission (China)

At the end of 2019, China experienced its first cases of Covid-19. The city of Wuhan – in Hubei province, the centre of the epidemic – is placed under quarantine before the containment of the entire country and then the whole world. As China gradually resumes its economic activity, Yangbo Sun gives us the first lessons he learns from this health crisis.

Read his testimonial


Testimony of  Mirdad KAZANJI, Doctor in virology, Director of the Institut Pasteur of French Guyana

Given the context, this logbook opens naturally with Dr Mirdad KAZANJI, Doctor in virology and Director of Pasteur Institute of French Guyana. This week, Mirdad gives us a general update on the epidemic’s frontline. He will share with us a weekly update and bring his expertise on this unprecedented crisis.

Read the interview

Key features: Water & Health

One River, one Health to protect and cure the natural environments and human beings efficiently…

“We drink 80% of our illnesses”

This sentence of Pasteur is unfortunately still relevant in the 21st century, despite the recognition of access to drinking water as a human right since 2010. Typhoid, cholera, dysentery and acute gastroenteritis: water is the vector of numerous parasites, bacteria and viruses. The population is directly exposed to pathogens contained in water through drinking, and indirectly through food contamination. More than 2 million people die every year in the world due to insalubrious water and poor hygiene and drainage.

Water and climate change: an environment conducive to the development of infectious diseases

Stagnant and warmer waters are conducive to the proliferation of arboviruses, these diseases transmitted by mosquitoes or ticks, which like humidity and heat.

Currently, worldwide, arboviruses (diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks) represent more than 40% of infectious and emerging diseases. They include dengue fever which has the highest prevalence in the world, with 390 million persons infected a year, chikungunya, zika virus, yellow fever, etc. The mosquito would thus be responsible for more than 750,000 deaths per year. It remains public enemy number one in many countries, especially as it adapts quickly. Humans cannot completely control the Nature and they are only part of a vast living ecosystem…

The impact of globalization

In 2010, an earthquake shook Haiti. Ten months later, at least 10,000 Haitians died… from cholera, brought into the country by UN troops responding to the emergency caused by the natural disaster. Viruses and bacteria are travelling, under the effects of the globalization of trade and climate change. The infected mosquitoes move north with the moderating climate.

Here is the definition given by Erik Orsenna of an emerging disease:

An emerging disease is a disease that’s starting to affect rich countries. 


To go further 

Book recommendation and video

The general public is literally inundated with all kinds of information about the Covid-19, and it is sometimes difficult to take the necessary distance in a crisis context. We therefore recommend some useful readings and videos to help you understand what is happening behind the headlines: 

  • The epidemic spread  – the Center for Systems Science and Engineering of the Johns Hopkins University (United States) is tracking the COVID-19 spread in real-time on an interactive dashboard and is also modeling the spread of the virus.
  • Self-diagnosis Algorithm co-developed by the Pasteur Institute to help, via numerical tools, people who think they have been exposed to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  •  Instructional video of the exponential growth and epidemics
  •  Tehnical brief:  Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19 by the World Health Organization.
  • Press release: Handwashing with soap, critical in the fight against coronavirus, is ‘out of reach’ for billions » :  by UNICEF – 2020.03.13
  • TED given by Bill Gates: “We can get ready for the next epidemic”, in 2015, after the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
  • Covid-19 and Sustainable Development Goals: Report published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Diagram p. 12
  • Policy Brief : “Integrated agriculture water management and health” published by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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