South African president and African Union (AU) chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa says the deadly coronavirus outbreak has affected both developed and developing countries, but it’s the latter who are expected to suffer the most.
Ramaphosa delivered a short virtual address to the 73rd World Health Assembly on Monday and, while it experienced numerous technical glitches, the South African president still managed to raise concerns over the presence of Covid-19 on the continent.
He asked for global support in both combating the virus and undoing the socio-economic consequences that followed.
He said the pandemic amplified dangerous and growing inequalities within and in between the different countries, with most health systems struggling to keep up with demand.
There are over 80,000 cases across the continent, with South Africa and Egypt the most affected.
“Africa is extremely vulnerable to the ravages of this virus and needs every possible support and assistance, including much-needed resources, to bolster its response and offset a potentially devastating social and economic fallout,” said Ramaphosa.
“The pandemic has devastated the livelihoods of millions of people,” he continued.
He said the AU had developed a comprehensive Covid-19 strategy, which included the establishment of an AU Covid-19 response fund – a fundraising drive to strengthen the continent’s centres for disease control and prevention.
The continent had also managed to raise $61 million towards fighting the pandemic, which he said was not enough.
“The assistance needs to include debt relief, more Special Drawing Rights Allocations with the international financial institutions, and the provision of comprehensive and robust stimulus packages to vulnerable countries,” said Ramaphosa.
While emphasising global solidarity, Ramaphosa urged world leaders to continue working together to improve “emergency preparedness”, even beyond the current outbreak.
He also said the pandemic demonstrated the value of universal health and should propel countries towards this.
“We must ensure that there is equitable access to medical equipment, technologies and best practice to combat Covid-19. In this final decade towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, we must press ahead with our goal of making universal healthcare a reality for all the people of the world,” he said.
The South African leader also affirmed his country’s support for the World Health Organisation (WHO), which he said had been key in guiding the international response to the pandemic.
“The WHO has been instrumental in providing guidance and support to African governments with early detection of the pandemic, training health workers and strengthening surveillance in communities,” Ramaphosa told the global assembly.