Southern Africa: Governments must urgently ramp up Covid-19 vaccination efforts to avoid third wave catastrophe

With a number of countries across Southern Africa experiencing a deadly third wave of Covid-19 infections, Amnesty International and 27 other Non-Governmental Organizations are calling on regional leaders, businesses, foreign governments and donors, to ramp up efforts and increase resources to speedily vaccinate as many people as possible.

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
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for East and Southern Africa

The organizations are also calling on high income countries and their groupings, including G20 and G7, to ensure that the intellectual property rights do not to 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 World Health Organization has predicted that the third wave of Covid-19 infections currently gripping Southern Africa will 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.    

“While rich countries are hoarding vaccines and refusing to waive intellectual property rights, people in Southern Africa have no protection from an increasingly deadly third wave. Access to Covid-19 vaccines should not be determined by where someone lives or how much they earn,”

“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 Programme, Freedom House.

The international community must help SADC leaders scale up the vaccine rollout to their populations. Any further delay will have catastrophic consequences
Tiseke Kasambala, Chief of Party, Advancing Rights in Southern Africa Programme, Freedom House

The organizations are also calling for non-discrimination in vaccine distribution, and for states to ensure that people can access the vaccine regardless of nationality, refugee status or statelessness.

Background

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community met in an extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government in Maputo earlier today 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. 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 28 signatories to this Press Release are:

Amnesty International

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

Green Institute                 

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)

Anjouan Comoros

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