Tens of millions of people in Africa could become destitute as a result of COVID-19 and its catastrophic impact on fragile economies and health systems across the continent, human rights chiefs from the United Nations and the African Commission warned on Wednesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Solomon Dersso, issued a joint call for urgent measures to mitigate the ripple effects of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable.
“We cannot afford to stand idly by and hope this most viral and deadly of diseases bypasses Africa, which is home to many of the world’s poorest countries who are simply not in position to handle such a pandemic”, Bachelet and Dersso said.
Cases in every country
As of 19 May, COVID-19 had reached all 54 African States, infecting 88,172 people – 16,433 of them in South Africa, which recorded the highest number of cases. The continent had lost a total 2,834 people to the virus.
Poverty, lack of social protection, limited access to water, poor sanitation infrastructure, pre-existing disease burden, conflict and overstretched health systems, have created heightened risk for spreading the disease.
Ms. Bachelet and Mr. Dersso called for equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, urging creditors of African countries to freeze, restructure or relieve debt.
“This health crisis – along with the debt burden of the continent and its already fragile economies – threaten to further drain reserves, cripple nascent job creation schemes and annihilate gains made in social development,” they said.