Global leadership required to fight pandemics: Cyril Ramaphosa
Calls for universal health policies to overcome Covid-19, future pandemics
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for efforts to “accelerate” universal health coverage to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a virtual independent panel for pandemic preparedness and response roundtable on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said while the pandemic had highlighted the value of partnerships, it had also demonstrated the damaging effects of unilateral action and unequal access to life-saving resources.
“We cannot hope to overcome this pandemic for as long as richer countries have most of the world’s supply of the vaccine to the exclusion and, most importantly, to the detriment of poor countries,” Ramaphosa said.
“As we prepare for future pandemics, we need to accelerate efforts to realise universal health coverage.
“We need to ensure vaccines and other life-saving treatments are seen and considered as public goods by the world.”
He said there was a need for the world to join hands, not only to prepare for the next pandemic, but to build a “fairer, healthier and even more equitable world”.
“We welcome the work of this panel with regard to identifying gaps and risks and making specific recommendations on how to address these weaknesses.”
The mandate of the panel, Ramaphosa said, was founded on the “firm” conviction that the global community needed to act to prevent another pandemic from ever causing death, devastation and turmoil.
“We know it is the virus that causes the disease, but it is human action and human inaction that causes the pandemic.
“The vital lesson from the coronavirus pandemic is the necessity for collective leadership, collaboration, solidarity and innovation among the countries of the world.
“We’ve seen all these being played out and having a huge impact from the outset. These are the principles that have guided Africa’s response to Covid-19.”
Giving a breakdown of the work African countries have done through the AU to combat the coronavirus, Ramaphosa said they had developed and started implementing the Africa joint continental strategy for the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We also established Covid-19 task forces in each of the continent’s five regions to drive the implementation of the continental strategy.
“In April 2020, we established the AU Covid-19 response fund, which was capitalised by the member states, international partners and the private sector.”
This, he said, helped to capacitate the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention which had been vital in supporting national and regional responses and the continental Covid-19 response.
“We also appointed prominent Africans and AU special envoys to mobilise funding for the continental response and campaign for debt relief for emerging economies that were struggling on our continent.
“The AU launched the ground-breaking African medical supplies platform in June 2020 to enable countries to have equitable access to medical supplies which were in high demand, including diagnostic tools and therapeutics for Covid-19.
“In August 2020, we established the Africa vaccine acquisition task team to secure vaccines for our continent’s countries.”