At least 28 non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, on Wednesday, called on southern African leaders, businesses, foreign governments and donors, to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination efforts to avoid a “third wave catastrophe.”
The organizations called on high income countries and their groupings, including G20 and G7, to ensure that “the intellectual property rights do not prevent any country from upholding the right to health.”
“A number of countries across Southern Africa, including Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, are currently in the midst of what could be the deadliest wave yet. The lack of vaccines in a region with high levels of poverty and inequality means many people feel they are just waiting to die,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa. “SADC and the international community must work together to accelerate the vaccine rollout and ensure as many people as possible are given lifesaving jabs.”
The call came after leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in an extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government in Maputo on Tuesday to discuss “regional integration, cooperation and development” as the third wave of Covid-19 begins to penetrate the region.
The pandemic has so far killed almost 70,000 people in Southern Africa, most of them in South Africa. Vaccine access remains precarious in the region, given the complexities around affordability, intellectual property rights, preparedness, and the global demand for a limited supply.
The World Health Organization has expressed fears that the third wave of Covid-19 infections currently gripping Southern Africa may likely be the deadliest yet.
Countries including South Africa, Namibia and Zambia have been reporting their highest ever rates of new infections in the past few weeks, with South Africa currently averaging 10,000 new cases every day. South Africa has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the SADC region since March 2020. As of 21 June, there have been 1,823,319 infections and 58,702 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country.
“The international community must help SADC leaders scale up the vaccine rollout to their populations. Any further delay will have catastrophic consequences.” said Tiseke Kasambala, Chief of Party, Advancing Rights in Southern Africa Program, Freedom House.
The organizations called for non-discrimination in vaccine distribution, and for states to ensure that people can access the vaccine regardless of nationality, refugee status or statelessness.
See below the 28 organizations calling for immediate action
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) – South Africa
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) Southern Africa
Denis Hurley Centre, Durban South Africa
Zambia Civic Education Association Zambia
Zambian Governance Foundation for Civil Society Zambia
GEARS Initiative Zambia – Zambia
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition – Zimbabwe
Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) Mozambique
Emang Basadi – Botswana
Transformation Resource Centre – Lesotho
Southern Africa Network Against Corruption – South Africa
Advancing Rights in Southern Africa program at Freedom House Southern Africa
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights – Zimbabwe
Organisation pour le Developpement Intellectuel de Madagascar Madagascar
Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) – Zimbabwe
Africa Human Rights Network Foundation (AHRN) – Tanzania
Maison des Organisations de la Société Civile (MOSC)
Friends of Angola (FoA) USA & Angola
Panos Institute Southern Africa Southern Africa
Catholic Commission For Justice and Peace Lesotho
Federation of Women Lawyers – FIDA
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) – Namibia
Youth and Society (YAS – Malawi
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) – South Africa
DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights – Botswana