The sharp increase in Coronavirus infections within the Southern Africa region is cause for great concern and calls for immediate remedial action. In less than a week, the number of infections has increased five times over and infiltrated into all but four of the 16 SADC member nations. For the vulnerable and those living in poverty in the region, this results in increased pressure on our medical and disaster recovery resources, therefore compromising the various economies that sustain all people living and working in the region.
Our primary concern is more specifically for women, small businesses, informal and cross-border traders, small scale farmers, migrant workers and refugees,domestic workers, and ex-mine workers in the region. Many of these individuals are the primary caregivers and economic providers for their families and yet are highly vulnerable to exposure to the virus, this over and above their existing exposure risks. The civil society organisations that work specifically with these groups of individuals require increased access to flexible solutions in order to facilitate their relief in these challenging times.
The continued spread of Coronavirus across the Southern Africa region presents unimaginable challenges that our benefactors and the people of the region will not survive, unless drastic short and long term measures are implemented immediately.
While many nations have implemented precautionary mechanisms to limit the spread of Coronavirus, we are deeply concerned with the light manner in which they are taken by national residents. Ours is a region with many migrant workers who regularly cross borders in various capacities; as such, any non-compliance with precautionary declarations will have a direct impact on the greater region and thus increase the spread and rate of infection of the virus. We stand in solidarity with the vulnerable populations of our region and therefore make calls and statements for action:
· We commend the decision of governments to lockdown countries and cities in their drive to flatten the curve of the spread. As difficult as this decision is and with the various complexities it presents, we call upon the national leadership of each SADC country to implement nationwide lockdown. This is for the sake of the survival of their people and economies. It is at this time that collaboration with the private sector becomes necessary. In addition to working with the government sector, we call upon employers and economic influencers across all industries to make extended provision for the lifeblood of their organisations – their workers and immediate communities.
· The work and voices of civil society organisations, the arts sector and community foundations become increasingly relevant at this time as they engage with and represent the most vulnerable communities. We urgently call upon governments and the private sector to provide financial relief in supporting the civil society sector, as they will do for the small business sector.
· We call on governments to recognise the intersectionality of the borders in the SADC region by providing financial and well-being support mechanisms that include migrant workers living in countries where they work. All instances of relief need to factor in temporary and national residents.
· It is important to acknowledge the work of medical service practitioners and civil servants who are at the front line of the pandemic and work tirelessly to fight an unknown enemy. As an organisation, we salute your selfless work and will support you throughout this time.
· We encourage SADC governments to ensure that all public health facilities are equipped with adequate testing, protective and other necessary equipment such as beds and medicines. It is imperative that villages, informal settlements and townships have access to clean water throughout this precautionary period.
To our partners, we will remain fully accessible to each of you. It is in times like this that our level of communication and engagement should deepen, albeit through use of modern technology mechanisms. In addition to having access with our team members, we’d like to invite you to collaborate with us in developing a body of knowledge that collates ours and the experiences of the vulnerable who we serve. Please expect a follow on letter in the coming days where we will share details of this invitation, how each of us can participate and the intended outcomes arising from this.
It will be through our ability to collaborate particularly in this time that an impactful difference can be made as we navigate through the pandemic. We ask that you remain vigilant and committed to your beneficiaries in what is a tough time for all.
To our donors, we remain committed to our mandate and will work innovatively during this time to make the impact that you have entrusted us with. We ask for your continued support in enabling our mandate to the people of our region.
To the people of the SADC region and across the globe, we ask that each of us remain resilient and steadfast in overcoming Coronavirus. It is every person’s responsibility to comply with state declarations and extend these where needed,in order to contain the rapid spread.
We firmly believe that in the same way the region has overcome past pandemics and injustices, we will overcome Coronavirus. The future of the region is in our hands.
From the Board and Executive Management of Southern Africa Trust