Coronavirus fears spark urban exodus across Africa
behenjy, Madagascar: No one can remember ever seeing as many people heading out of Antananarivo along national highway number 7.
Madagascans have joined the exodus in their hundreds in recent days, forming long queues to get away after the authorities declared a lockdown to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
Richard Rakotoarisoa hit the road during the morning, surrounded by dozens of other people who have decided to head south on foot, rather than risk being stuck in the city with little or no food.
"We stopped work and accepted the constraints of confinement, but we still have to eat and feed our children," the 30-year-old father, says.
"For me, it was a question of discipline or leaving."
Before dawn, he woke his two children and loaded a bicycle with what he could and set off for the town of Antsirabe, 150 kilometres (90 miles) away, expecting a three-day walk to join his wife and the rest of their family there.
"We don't really know when we will get there, but we are preparing to spend several nights on the road, sleeping under the stars," Rakotoarisoa says.
There is no question of going back. "In our village, our parents are farmers. We can live off what we grow. In the capital, under confinement we would just be waiting till hunger takes our lives."
Across the African continent, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already left nearly 28,000 people dead around the world according to an AFP tally, has sparked the same mass movement of populations. - AFP