Africa’s struggle with the coronavirus, including the lack of COVID-19 vaccine access, was the focus of a blistering Amnesty International report released Tuesday.
Just 8% of the 1.2 billion people on the continent were vaccinated by the end of 2021, with multiple waves of the pandemic having a “devastating impact” on Africans, Amnesty said in a statement. It accompanied the release of the “Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The State of the World’s Human Rights” report.
“Covid-19 should have been a decisive wake-up call to deal with inequality and poverty,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa. Instead, the pandemic drove an even deeper inequality that Amnesty says was driven by wealthy global states colluding with corporate giants.
“Especially rich countries, who failed to ensure that big pharma distributed vaccines equally between states to ensure the same level of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Muchena said. “As things stand now, most African countries will take long to recover from Covid-19 due to high levels of inequality and poverty.”
African governments had to deal with shipping, logistics, and vaccine availability challenges that made it hard to build community trust and promote COVID-19 vaccination, Amnesty said.
“In countries like DRC, Malawi and South Sudan, vaccine deliveries arrived with short expiry dates forcing authorities to destroy supplies or return the bulk for reallocation to other countries,” said Amnesty. Meanwhile, wealthy nations stockpiled more doses than needed.
“Rich and powerful countries used money and their political influence to procure hundreds of millions of doses, shutting poor countries out of the market,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director. “Most people in low-income countries would become the last to be inoculated, as if one’s financial status or nationality was the qualifying criteria to get vaccinated.”
Image: Government of South Africa file