Madagascar Hospitals ‘Overwhelmed’ By Coronavirus Surge

A patient seriously ill with COVID-19 coronavirus is being treated at the Andohatapenaka University Hospital in Antananarivo on July 20, 2020. RIJASOLO / AFP

 

 

Hospital officials in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo say they are struggling to cope with a rush of coronavirus patients despite the distribution of a herbal drink touted as a remedy by the president.

President Andry Rajoelina has been promoting an infusion derived from artemisia – a plant with proven anti-malarial properties – as a homegrown cure for COVID-19.

He has brushed off warnings by the World Health Organization (WHO) that there are no published scientific studies of the drink – which has been called COVID-Organics – and that its effects have not been tested.

But COVID-designated hospitals in Antananarivo warn they are starting to run out of beds.

“We are now only accepting severe cases,” Andohotapenaka Hospital director Nasolotsiry Raveloson told AFP on Tuesday.

“The number of cases is increasing more and more,” he explained. “We now have 46 severe cases and so we only have four spaces left.”

At Joseph Raseta Befelatanana Hospital, director Mamy Randria said the facility was “overwhelmed”.

“It is impossible to free up spaces for the moment,” he said.

The head of Anosiala University Hospital, Rado Razafimahatratra echoed the concerns, noting that the facility was “constantly overwhelmed”.

To date the Indian Ocean island-nation of Madagascar has recorded 7,548 coronavirus cases, including just 65 deaths.

Infections have spiked over recent days, however, raising concern in a country where three-quarters of the population live on less than $1.90 per day, according to the World Bank.

 

A patient seriously ill with COVID-19 coronavirus is being treated at the Andohatapenaka University Hospital in Antananarivo on July 20, 2020. RIJASOLO / AFP

 

‘Notable Flare-ups’

In a letter on Monday, the health ministry made an “urgent appeal” to development agencies to support its “fight” against coronavirus.

“Over the past weeks, the COVID-19 epidemic has evolved in a very critical way in Madagascar with notable flare-ups in certain regions, particularly in Antananarivo,” said the letter.

The ministry asked for oxygen bottles, 227 ventilators, 2.3 million face masks, 697,000 pairs of gloves and 533,200 medical blouses.

Government spokeswoman Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy said the state was aware it faced “certain shortages” but was working hard to “find solutions” — citing new treatment centres in the capital and eastern city of Toamasina.

“Two factors have contributed to the spread of this disease,” said health department official Zely Arivelo Andriamanantany on local television.

“Firstly… people took CVO (Covid-Organics) and then didn’t respect social distancing. Secondly, CVO only guarantees protection for two to three weeks,” he said.

The government, meanwhile, has blamed the rise in cases on “increased testing capacity”.

“Positive COVID-19 cases did not take CVO or only took it sporadically, without following the prescribed dosage,” said official documents sent to AFP on Tuesday.

“Almost systematically, within the same family unit, those who result positive were not drinking CVO — or at least not regularly — while those who tested negative were taking the solution (and) remained negative despite living together without necessarily social distancing.”

Madagascar Re-Imposes Lockdown Amid Surge In COVID-19 Cases

This general view shows the empty second-hand clothes market in the Isotry district of Madagascar capital Antananarivo on May 16, 2020, where 16 people have been infected with COVID-19 coronavirus by a single resident of this neighbourhood.  RIJASOLO / AFP.

 

Madagascar has placed its capital Antananarivo under a fresh lockdown following a new surge in coronavirus infections, two months after the restrictions were eased, the presidency announced Sunday.

“The Analamanga region (under which the capital is situated) is returning to full lockdown,” the presidency said in a statement.

No traffic will be allowed in or out of the region starting Monday until July 20.

A strict curfew will be imposed on street movement by people.

“Only one person per household is allowed to go out into the street between 6:00 am (0400 GMT) and 12:00 pm (1000 GMT),” said the statement.

The measures have been taken “because of the spread of the epidemic and the increase of COVID-19 cases,” it added.

Used to registering dozens of coronavirus cases a day, Madagascar has in recent days seen an exponential rise in daily numbers, jumping to a record 216 cases on Saturday.

The latest tally came after 675 people were tested.

Nearly 24,000 tests have so far been conducted on the impoverished island.

By Sunday the country had a cumulative 2,728 cases, including 29 deaths since the virus was first detected on the Indian ocean island on March 20.

All government meetings will now be held via video conferencing, while court hearings have been suspended.

In April, President Andry Rajoelina launched a local herbal concoction he claimed prevents and cures the novel coronavirus.

Rajoelina has been promoting the brew for export, saying it is the country’s “green gold” which will “change history”.

The potential benefits of Covid-Organics, a tonic derived from artemisia — a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment — and other indigenous herbs, have not been validated by any scientific study.

AFP

Madagascar Records First COVID-19 Death

This general view shows the empty second-hand clothes market in the Isotry district of Madagascar capital Antananarivo on May 16, 2020, where 16 people have been infected with COVID-19 coronavirus by a single resident of this neighbourhood.  RIJASOLO / AFP.

 

Madagascar on Sunday reported the first death of a patient suffering from novel coronavirus nearly two months after it was first detected in the country, official statistics showed.

The Indian ocean island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction that President Andry Rajoelina claims can cure people infected with the virus.

Several African countries have ordered or expressed interest in the purported remedy, which is known as COVID-Organics.

The tonic drink is derived from artemisia — a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment — and other indigenous herbs.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Punctures Tunisia Tourism Rebound

But the World Health Organization has warned against “adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy”.

AFP

Madagascar Cure Will Be Subjected To Regulatory Process Before Use In Nigeria – PTF

 

The Madagascar herbal remedy for COVID-19 will be subjected to the normal regulatory processes before it will be administered for use in Nigeria.

This was disclosed on Tuesday by the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, while addressing journalists in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Aliyu said following the presidential directive that the herbal remedy be airlifted to Nigeria, it will be subjected to stringent regulatory process within the legal frameworks of the country.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Cure: WHO Meets African Traditional Medicine Experts

“I want to start briefly by talking about the Madagascar cure. As directed by the President, I want to state that any medication coming into the country whether it is herbal cure or concoction or normal drug. It has to be subjected to the normal regulatory process.

“The Madagascar cure will be subjected to the normal process we expect within the legal frameworks and guidelines that we have. More importantly, not only to establish its efficacy but for it to be legally registered.

“So this drug would go through the normal regulatory process which can be stringent before it can be administered in the country,” Aliyu said.

President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier ordered the PTF to airlift COVID Organics to Nigeria.

The Health Minister Osagie Ehanire including the PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, however, stressed on Monday that the remedy will be subjected to scrutiny before it can be used.

At Least Two Dead After Cyclone Belna Hits Madagascar

 

 

Two people were killed in Madagascar after Cyclone Belna landed in the northwest of the country, causing heavy flooding and displacing hundreds, local authorities said Tuesday.

The tropical cyclone hit the impoverished island nation’s Boeny region on Monday after brushing past the island of Mayotte and the Comoros archipelago.

“A child and an elderly person were unable to save themselves” after a dam collapsed, said the head of Madagascar’s National Office for Disaster Risk Management (BNGRC), Elack Andriakaja.

The cyclone brought torrential rain and reached a maximum wind speed of 180 kilometres per hour (112 mph), tearing off roofs and causing widespread damage.

The BNGRC said 1,300 people were displaced in the town of Soalala and 172 — including 120 children — in the port city of Mahajanga.

Both of the deaths reported so far occurred in Soalala, which was flooded after the dam gave way.

“The cyclone will disappear before long but danger from flooding has not yet been averted,” Andriakaja said, adding that access by air remained “complicated”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has distributed medicines for 1,500 people and supplies will be sent out via boat on Wednesday.

Cyclone Belna bypassed Mayotte on Sunday after initial forecasts put the French island in its direct path.

Neither Mayotte nor the Comoros are reported to have suffered significant damage.

Madagascar, a former French colony off Africa’s southeastern coast, is regularly hit by cyclones and other tropical storms.

Cyclone Ava killed 51 people in January last year, and two months later tropical storm Eliakim displaced around 19,000 inhabitants.

Pope Pleads With Madagascans To Protect Rainforest

Pope Francis greets crowd as he arrives at the St. Michel complex in Antananarivo in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on September 8, 2019. MARCO LONGARI / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Saturday made an impassioned plea to Madagascans to protect the Indian Ocean’s unique environment from “excessive deforestation”, on the second leg of his African tour.

Weeks after a spike of fires in the Amazon, the Argentine pontiff told his hosts they should “create jobs and money-making activities which respect the environment and help people escape poverty”.

Madagascar — famed for its immense diversity of flora and fauna — is home to 25 million people, the vast majority of whom live in poverty on an income of less than two dollars a day.

More than half of its young people are out of work, even if many boast good qualifications.

The pope said there “were many causes driving excessive deforestation which benefits just a few people… and compromises the future of the country.”

The authorities should also ensure social justice, he added.

‘Alarm raised’

Madagascar’s British ambassador Philip Boyle told AFP the country loses around 200,000 hectares of forest each year, adding that “most of the tropical rainforest could disappear by 2040”.

he country’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture, the export of vanilla and cocoa in particular.

“The alarm has been raised by the pope and we are ready to take on the challenge,” environment minister Alexandre Georget told AFP.

He said Madagascar would do more to prevent forest fires, and use tree-planting drones and aerial seed bombing techniques to restore its forests.

“In six months we reached an objective of planting 40,000 hectares of land (98,000 acres), but this is pointless when there are forest fires” said Georget, adding that laws would be enforced and farmers made more aware of the issue.

Liberal-leaning president Andry Rajoelina was elected to a second term last year mainly on promises of jobs and housing.

“Corruption and inequality outrage us,” said Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana, addressing the pope in his welcome speech.

Hope for the young

At Antananarivo’s Soamandrakizay stadium, thousands of young people – mainly scouts – gathered for a vigil. They waited for hours in the heat.

“I am here to ask for the pope’s blessing to face the harsh realities of life, insecurity, poverty and corruption,” said 17-year old student Njara Raherimana, who travelled hundreds of kilometres for the event.

“All this gives me hope for change in my country,” echoed fellow student, Antony Christian Tovonalintsoa, who lives in the outskirts of the capital.

During the vigil, Pope Francis lauded the “joy and enthusiasm” of the singing crowd.

He encouraged the youth not to fall into “bitterness” or to lose hope, even when they lacked the “necessary minimum” to get by and when “educational opportunities were insufficient”

800,000 faithful expected

Sunday will mark the high point of Francis’ visit with a huge mass in the capital expected to be attended by some 800,000 faithful.

Many had already started setting up tents on the outskirts of the city on Friday, armed with posters of the Argentine pontiff.

Prospere Ralitason, a 70-year-old farm worker, arrived with some 5,000 fellow pilgrims from the central eastern town of Ambatondrazaka, 200 kilometres (125 miles) away.

“We are tired, but it’s worth making all these sacrifices to see the pope with our own eyes and receive his blessing,” he told AFP,

John Paul II

The last pope to visit was John Paul II 30 years ago.

“I was a lieutenant when I helped with the security of John Paul II in 1989. Today I am a divisional general and overseeing security for Francis’ visit to Madagascar,” said Samuel Rakotomalala.

Some 700 police officers will be deployed at the site, which is also equipped with 200 surveillance cameras and the 12,000 young scouts will also help out.

In June, 16 people were killed and dozens hurt in a stampede outside a sports stadium in the capital during a free concert.

Francis visited Mozambique earlier in the week. He is also due to travel to the island of Mauritius, which like Madagascar is situated off the eastern coast of Africa.

Tunisia Ends Madagascar’s Fairytale AFCON Run

Madagascar’s forward Charles Andriamahitsinoro reacts during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) quarter final football match between Madagascar and Tunisia at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on July 11, 2019.
Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Tunisia ended Madagascar’s fairytale Africa Cup of Nations run in the quarter-finals on Thursday with a 3-0 win over the tournament debutants in Cairo.

Ferjani Sassi’s heavily deflected strike gave Tunisia the lead early in the second half at Al-Salam Stadium and Youssef Msakni squeezed home a second on 60 minutes.

Naim Sliti added a third in injury time to send Tunisia through to a semi-final showdown with Sadio Mane’s Senegal, with the Carthage Eagles into the last four for the first time since clinching their only title when they hosted the 2004 edition.

READ ALSO: Algeria Beat Côte d’Ivoire On Penalties To Reach Semi-Finals

Tunisia boss Alain Giresse recalled Wahbi Khazri in attack as the lone change to the side that overcame Ghana in a last-16 penalty shootout, while Marco Ilaimaharitra returned from suspension as Madagascar fielded the same team used throughout the group phase.

Tunisia, the continent’s second-ranked side at 25th in the world, had reached the quarter-finals here without winning a single game following four successive draws.

After matches in Suez and Ismailia, this was a first Cairo outing for the Carthage Eagles, who controlled possession early but didn’t truly threaten until a sweetly struck Khazri free-kick was superbly flicked onto the bar by Madagascar goalkeeper Melvin Adrien.

Ghailene Chaalali forced Adrien to push an awkward low shot behind while Mouez Hassen, apologetic after his angry reaction to being substituted ahead of the shootout in the last round, was a largely untested bar from a long-range Ibrahim Amada effort.

Madagascar was trying to become the first newcomers since South Africa in 1996 to reach the semi-finals, but their hopes were effectively extinguished by the hour.

Khazri saw a goal disallowed for offside straight after half-time, but Sassi struck minutes later when his tame shot from the edge of the area hit Thomas Fontaine and spun past a helpless Adrien.

Msakni then promptly doubled Tunisia’s advantage, jumping on a rebound to slip the ball low beyond Adrien moments after he parried a shot from Khazri.

Charles Andriamahitsinoro, who scored twice for Madagascar in the group stage, looked to be through on goal after a long punt forward but failed to muster a shot. Amada was unable to reproduce his wonder strike from the DR Congo tie as he sliced wide from distance.

This was the first competitive meeting between the countries in almost two decades, and while Nicolas Dupuis has transformed Madagascar from a team once ranked 190th, Sliti’s injury-time goal ensured it was the end of a remarkable adventure for the ‘Barea’.

AFP

AFCON Debutants Madagascar Beat DR Congo To Keep Dream Run Alive

Madagascar’s players celebrate their win during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Round of 16 football match between Madagascar and DR Congo at the Alexandria Stadium in the Egyptian city on July 7, 2019. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Africa Cup of Nations debutants Madagascar kept their remarkable run going on Sunday with a penalty shootout victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo after a 2-2 draw to secure a place in the quarter-finals.

Ibrahim Amada’s wonder strike put Madagascar ahead just nine minutes in at Alexandria Stadium but DR Congo responded swiftly as China-based forward Cedric Bakambu headed home his third goal in two matches.

Madagascar captain Faneva Andriatsima nodded the Indian Ocean islanders back ahead with a quarter-hour remaining only for Chancel Mbemba to haul DR Congo level at a corner in the final minute.

Marcel Tisserand and Yannick Bolasie both blazed over for DR Congo in the shootout as Madagascar prevailed 4-2 with their reward a meeting with four-time winners Ghana or 2004 champions Tunisia for a place in the semi-finals.

“I want to congratulate my players, particularly after we had to deal with that equaliser right in the last minute of normal time,” said Madagascar coach Nicolas Dupuis.

“We weren’t quite as good as we were against Nigeria. We lacked a bit of juice but our opponents created us a lot of problems for us.”

He added: “I think 25 million will be partying at home. We want to go as far as possible and enjoy it.”

Marco Ilaimaharitra’s suspension forced Dupuis to alter his line-up for the first time in the tournament with Rayan Raveloson deputising in midfield for a team that shocked Nigeria 2-0 to advance as group winners.

Britt Assombalonga replaced the injured Jonathan Bolingi in the lone change to the DR Congo side that trounced Zimbabwe 4-0, with captain Youssouf Mulumbu describing their qualification as a “miracle” following two opening losses.

Amada rocket

Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina chartered a 480-seater plane to take fans to Egypt, and the travelling support were soon rejoicing when Amada blasted a sensational 25-yard strike that tailed away from Ley Matampi and flew in off the post.

The jubilant celebrations were halted midway through the first half though when Bakambu slipped free of the Madagascar centre-backs to glance in Glody Ngonda’s bending cross.

Mbemba smashed over as another left-wing cross found the Malagasy defence in trouble, but this was a far more balanced contest than the last meeting — a 6-1 triumph for DR Congo in a 2017 Cup of Nations qualifier.

That hiding was the darkest day in Malagasy football history but they have undergone a dramatic transformation, and nearly regained the lead 10 minutes after the break when Jerome Mombris embarked on a driving run, his shot spilled by Matampi with Charles Andriamahitsinoro agonisingly hitting the rebound wide.

A battling Madagascar eventually regained the lead against a nation ranked 59 places above them when Andriatsima flung himself at a Romain Metanire cross following a superb long-busting run from the right-back.

Bolasie’s tumble in the area provoked furious protests from DR Congo, with VAR not in use until the next round, but the Leopards conjured up another escape act in the 90th minute as an unmarked Mbemba headed in a corner to force extra time.

Madagascar goalkeeper Melvin Adrien kept his team level in extra time with a string of vital saves, the best an instinctive one-handed stop to repel another Mbemba header, while some desperate defending allowed the ‘Barea’ to take it to a shootout and add a further chapter to their Egyptian fairytale.

AFP

Madagascar Coach Cherishes ‘Dream’ Victory Over Nigeria

Madagascar’s coach Nicolas Dupuis attends a press conference at the Alexandria stadium in Alexandria, northern Egypt, on June 29, 2019, on the eve of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group B football match between Madagascar and Nigeria.
Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Madagascar coach Nicolas Dupuis hailed his team’s shock 2-0 Africa Cup of Nations victory over Nigeria that secured a place in the knockout rounds as a “dream” for the nation.

Goals from Lalaina Nomenjanahary and Charles Andriamatsinoro in Alexandria earned the Indian Ocean islanders a famous victory and saw Madagascar pip three-time winners Nigeria to top spot in Group B.

“I have to thank the players who made me proud and the people of Madagascar proud. It’s a real achievement for us,” said Frenchman Dupuis, who combines his role with a job at a lower-league club in his homeland.

“When I saw the group we were given we all put Nigeria as favourites. Nigeria are still a strong favourite for the tournament.”

Madagascar will face one of four best third-place finishers in the last 16 after becoming the first newcomers since Cape Verde in 2013 to survive the group stage.

“I find that the players are more and more concentrated,” said Dupuis. “But I have always played the same players and that’s going to be a major problem now.

“We’re going to have 10 of them resting at training. The main problem is that Marco (Ilaimaharitra) received a second yellow card and won’t be able to play in the next match.”

He added: “I really wanted to make the Madagascar people dream and we did but it came at a bit of a cost with all the effort we put in.”

Nigeria counterpart Gernot Rohr said he believed Madagascar were capable of creating further surprises, remarkable for a team that needed to come through a preliminary round just to reach the qualifying competition.

“You (Madagascar) can go very far now. You beat us, you beat Burundi, a team that’s not easy to beat. Anything can happen in knockout games. I think you’re capable of doing this again.”

Madagascar Beat Nigeria 2-0, Advance As Group B Winner

Madagascar’s players celebrate after scoring their second goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group B football match between Madagascar and Nigeria at the Alexandria Stadium on June 30, 2019. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Africa Cup of Nations newcomers Madagascar pulled off a stunning upset of Nigeria on Sunday with a 2-0 win over the three-time former champions to clinch a place in the last 16.

Lalaina Nomenjanahary gave Madagascar a shock 12th-minute lead in Alexandria after pouncing on ponderous defending, jolting a side ranked 63 places above them in the world.

Charles Andriamatsinoro sealed the victory in front of CAF president and Madagascar native Ahmad Ahmad with a heavily deflected free-kick on 53 minutes for his second goal in three games in Egypt.

The Indian Ocean islanders had to come through a preliminary round just to reach the qualifying competition but will advance as winners of Group B ahead of Nigeria, with Guinea hoping to progress as one of four best third-place finishers following a 2-0 win over Burundi in Cairo.

Defeat for Nigeria likely sets up an eye-catching clash with either holder Cameroon or four-time winners Ghana in the next round, while Madagascar will take on a team that finishes third from either Group A, C or D.

Having already qualified after back-to-back 1-0 victories, Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr made five changes to the side that overcame Guinea in their second game with Samuel Kalu handed his first start of the tournament following last week’s collapse in training due to severe hydration.

Yet after a comfortable start, Nigeria gifted their opponents a goal completely against the run of play when a poor pass from John Ogu put Leon Balogun in trouble, with Nomenjanahary pinching the ball on the edge of the area and coolly dancing round Ikechukwu Ezenwa to slot home.

Kalu bent a shot wide of the far post in response for Nigeria, whose penalty appeals were ignored when Ahmed Musa tumbled to the ground after trying to skip past goalkeeper Melvin Adrien on the half-hour.

French coach Nicolas Dupuis, who combines the role with his job at a lower-league club in his homeland, has worked wonders with a Madagascar side that qualified for a first Cup of Nations by finishing above Equatorial Guinea and Sudan.

Guinea faces an anxious wait

They doubled their lead early in the second half here when Andriamatsinoro’s set-piece flicked off substitute Wilfred Ndidi and left Ezenwa stranded as the ball sailed into the net.

Ndidi belatedly registered Nigeria’s first shot on target just before the hour with a curling effort straight at Adrien, although Anicet Andrianantenaina nearly bagged a third as Ezenwa smothered on the line after an inviting Andriamatsinoro cross.

While Madagascar became the first debutants to advance beyond the group stage since Cape Verde in 2013, they will be without midfielder Marco Ilaimaharitra for their next game after he collected a late yellow card, his second in three matches.

In contrast, fellow newcomers Burundi bowed out without a single goal or point after a 2-0 loss to Guinea.

Burundi’s hopes suffered a huge blow when Christophe Nduwarugira was sent off on 12 minutes in the capital after a foul as the last man, and Mohamed Yattara stepped up for Guinea with both goals to leave them facing a nervous wait for a spot in the last 16.

AFP

16 Crushed To Death At Madagascar Independence Day Rally

 

At least 16 people were crushed to death and dozens injured in Madagascar on Wednesday at a stadium hosting national independence day celebrations in the capital Antananarivo.

The bodies of sixteen victims, including three children, were stored at the mortuary of HJRA hospital in the city, AFP journalists said.

Hospital director Oliva Alison Rakoto had earlier reported 15 dead and 80 wounded.

According to witnesses at the hospital, the accident occurred in the afternoon outside the Mahamasina stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark the national holiday.

At the end of a military parade, security forces opened the gates to allow spectators to leave the enclosure, causing the crowd to mass outside the stadium, witnesses said.

The police then immediately closed the gates and blocked the crowd, witnesses said, causing a deadly pile-up.

“When the organizers opened the gate, we were in the front row, in the queue,” said Jean Claude Etienne Rakotoarimanana, 29, who suffered bruises from the crush.

“Suddenly people ran to get in front of us. They shoved us, some even punched us and pulled us,” he added, saying he then fainted.

In September 2018, one person was crushed to death while 30 others were injured in similar circumstances at the entrance of the same stadium during a football match between Madagascar and Senegal.

AFCON 2019: Rohr, Musa Describe Group B As ‘Tough’

Nigerian Coach Gernot Rohr looks during the African Cup of Nations qualification match between Nigeria and Libya in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in southern Nigeria, on October 13, 2018.
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Super Eagles’ head coach, Gernot Rohr and team captain, Ahmed Musa have described Nigeria’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON) group B pairing as a ‘tough one’, insisting that the team must be at its best to get out of it.

Nigeria was drawn in group B with Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi for the tournament holding in Egypt between 21 June – 19 July 2019.

“It is a tough group and we have to be at our best and our fittest. Guinea has a young, tough team and we will have to be at our best against them. Burundi eliminated Gabon even with their Pierre Aubameyang. Madagascar was the first team to qualify. It would be a great showpiece of football, but it is important for our players to avoid injuries as the season heads towards the end.”

READ ALSO: AFCON 2019: Nigeria Gets ‘Comfortable’ Group As Cameroon Faces Four-Times Winners Ghana

Also, Super Eagles’ captain Ahmed Musa said: “I think it is a tough group for the Super Eagles. It is important for us to stay fit and avoid injuries so that everyone would be in great shape in Egypt. We have a young team who have played at the World Cup but have not played at the AFCON. For me, we are ready for any country in Egypt. It would be an interesting experience.”

Rohr revealed that plans are in place for the team’s preparation with friendly games against “Ghana (in Nigeria), and maybe Senegal.”

The two top –placed teams in each group, as well as the best third –placed teams from four out of the six groups, will qualify for the knock-out rounds.

Nigeria will play its group games in Alexandria with fixtures against Burundi on June 22 (7pm), Guinea on June 26 (4.30pm) and Madagascar on June 30 (6pm).

GROUP A: Egypt, DR Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe

GROUP B: Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi

GROUP C: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania

GROUP D: Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Namibia

GROUP E: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Angola

GROUP F: Cameroon, Ghana, Benin Republic, Guinea Bissau