Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), has called for a global response in the fight against COVID-19, in regards to urgently scaling up testing and isolating infected people and communities, investing in health and protecting the healthcare workers, and focusing on the community to ensure that the community response is strong, and have a constant supply chain.
The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10 million testing kits will be necessary to respond to COVID-19 effectively over the next three months. Hundreds of millions of personal protective items such as face masks, protective gowns and gloves will also be needed. As such, Africa must not be left behind at a time when there is a global demand for these medical supplies.
“As we have seen in other countries, the best way to reduce infections and deaths is to test, treat and isolate infected people and communities to contain the virus. So, the supply of testing equipment and access to testing must be the priority,” said Winnie Byanyima.
Previously, UGANET has called on the government to prioritize the provision of maternity and sexual and reproductive health services and to designate transport for expecting mothers or those due for their antenatal and postnatal appointments to the health facilities was allowed. It has also called for the protection of health rights for both women and children during this period.
Making human rights central to a public health crisis such as COVID makes the response not only robust but also effective.
In the place of fear, human rights based approaches put a strong barrier to abuse. When the COVID response includes protecting the vulnerable members of society such as women and children, it shields the large population. The use of excessive force by security forces on vulnerable individuals is unacceptable.
UGANET hails the ministry of health for strongly protecting individuals that got infected and cured of COVID 19. The stigma fueled by the fear of catching the disease would have exposed these members to more ridicule.
In addition UGANET applauds the government’s efforts to provide food to Ugandans in urban centres. However, many communities are still dying of hunger since the food distribution has not reached other critical areas. There are many individuals with other health conditions that need continued monitoring within this period. Such individuals cannot take their medicines without food hence the urgent call to the government to ensure vulnerable individuals such as people living with HIV and persons with TB have access to this supplies to protect their wellbeing.
During this period, more still needs to be done to ensure observation of human rights and setting up of protection shelters for Ugandans suffering from abuse.
“We decry the continued harassment and the imprisonment of sex workers that has been on the rise during this lockdown period. Since the reported increase of COVID-19 cases among truck drivers, we have seen the undue targeting and arrests, notably in the sex workers community. Over 120 women were arrested in 7 districts,” notes Dorah Kiconco, UGANET’s Executive Editor.
UGANET is pleased to see UNAIDS working closely with all its partners to ensure that essential medicines and medical supplies continue to get to where they are most needed.
Observation of human rights and ready access to healthcare especially for vulnerable communities are key even as we work together as a country to respond to this pandemic.