Civil Society calls for governmental and non-governmental actors to apply the “Leave No one Behind” principle when responding to COVID-19.
On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that an outbreak of the viral disease COVID-19 – first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China – had reached the level of a global pandemic.
We, as the South African Civil Society Working Group (SAWG) on SDGs, are particularly concerned about the vulnerability of poor and disadvantaged communities – who constitute the majority of our population – during this time. A large section of our society have compromised immune systems due to the prevalence HIV/AIDS and TB. Many people lack adequate water and sanitation facilities, live in crowded human settlements and rely on public transport systems. It is not hard to imagine that COVID-19 will be disastrous for our country once it hits these communities.
As witnessed in other countries hit by COVID-19, health systems are not prepared to respond to a pandemic of this magnitude. Our public health system is already working over capacity and is unlikely to cope with new cases every day. In addition, the unequal allocation of healthcare resources in South Africa would reduce the efficiency of any response to the crisis.
Experts warn that the consequences of inequality are deepened in societies affected by the virus, pushing many of the burdens onto the losers of today’s polarized economies and labour markets. They suggest that those in lower economic strata are more likely to catch the disease – and are more likely to die from it. And, even for those who remain healthy, the loss of income and access to non-COVID health care as a result of quarantines and other measures will have sweeping and disastrous consequences.
SAWG therefore calls for governmental and non-governmental actors to apply the “Leave No one Behind” principle in the response to COVID-19. We call for exhaustive interventions that are inclusive and that prioritise the needs of the poor and disadvantaged communities.
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