Covid-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call to Africa

Monday, August 2nd, 2021 00:00 | By
Covid vaccine.

Paul Ekuru       

Covid-19 vaccine apartheid as a present reality is probably the starkest pointer to an anarchical international system determined to maintain the Global North-Global South rift.

The right to health is a universal human right, even better, States are said to be equal.

The doctrine of equality of States is well enshrined in International Law, just as the Charter of the United Nations (UN) enthusiastically recognises it. 

Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed glaring cracks in our world structure.

Likewise, the Covid vaccine distribution has dealt a huge blow not only on the spirit of International Law, but also the efficacy of State practice premise in the face of a global threat to human condition. 

Universal human dignity should be the highest moral obligation of any living being – one would wish. Vaccine for all ought to be a reality – one would hope. 

Here is the real problem; in May this year, the United Nations Security Council met to discus the promotion of post-pandemic recovery in Africa.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres contented at the meeting that Africa had received barely two per cent of the total vaccines already administered worldwide.

Essentially, only 24 million of the 1.4 billion doses got to Africa. Another set of numbers by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that just about 2 per cent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, yet.

These numbers tell a terribly unpleasant story; a story of the dire human condition in Africa as the pandemic rages onto its third wave. 

And as the UN secretary general recently averred, the pandemic is steadily fueling drivers of conflict – food insecurity, poverty, inequality and climate disruption.

This would in turn impede efforts by global actors to implement the UN Security Council (UNSC)(resolution 2532 (2020) on conflict prevention and resolution.

Call it vaccine protectionism, vaccine apartheid or even vaccine nationalism – for as long as equitable access to vaccine remains an illusion, world peace remains threatened. 

Today, our society is ravaged by one of the worst pandemics in human history yet divided by the very response to that pandemic.

The UNSC should be greatly concerned. United Nation remains the mandated custodian of the means to continued world peace.

But does it even have a mandate on the vaccine production and distribution? Or has it contributed to the Covid 19 vaccine apartheid?

There is a fair argument that the UNSC has no special health expertise, but determining the existence of a threat to the world peace and recommending an appropriate action remains core to its function. 

Has the council put it’s best foot forward in regards to the pandemic? One notable moment comes to mind – July 2020.

As the pandemic continued to rage, tensions between United States and China escalated. Negotiations to ease the feud turned difficult.

UNSC finally passed a resolution to encourage cease-fires in conflict-ridden States so as to limit the spread of Covid-19.

On  February 17, this year, a meeting was convened to think through the role of the UN, the Security Council and the Member States in ensuring that vaccine distribution is equitable in parts of the world experiencing insecurity and conflict.

An emergency task force formed by the G20 countries to spearhead implementation of a global immunisation plan was proposed.

And the Security Council adopted resolution 2565 (2021) that endorses widespread Covid-19 vaccination as a global public good. 

Yet, despite all the high discussions, and the political declaration on Equitable Global Access to Covid-19 vaccines by member States, equitable vaccination remains a mirage within the African context.

The rich countries have deliberately continued to block vaccines from landing in Africa. 

It would be naïve of African States to continue pushing for vaccine aid from the wealthy States.

The hard lesson here, and the difficult truth for Africa, is that it has to pivot. It’s time for Africa to access its well-kept abilities and move into manufacturing.

Africa has only one viable option left, unite to industrialise faster, align national resources with manufacturing.

If Africa won’t help herself, no one else is readily available to do so. —The writer is a communications strategist - [email protected]

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