wealth inequality

Sub-Saharan Africa: Millions denied vaccines, deepening inequality and human suffering

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Wealthy states colludedwithcorporate giants in 2021 to dupe people with empty slogans and false promises of a fair recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic while many people from Africa were denied life-saving vaccines, in what amounts to one of the greatest betrayals of our times, said Amnesty International today, as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.

Covid-19 should have been a decisive wake-up call to deal with inequality and poverty. Instead, we have seen deeper inequality and greater instability in Africa exacerbated by global powers, especially rich countries, who failed to ensure that big pharma distributed vaccines equally between states

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The State of the World’s Human Rights finds that these states, alongside corporate titans, have in fact driven deeper global inequality, with most African countries left struggling to recover from Covid-19 due to high levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment exacerbated by unequal distribution of vaccines.

“Covid-19 should have been a decisive wake-up call to deal with inequality and poverty. Instead, we have seen deeper inequality and greater instability in Africa exacerbated by global powers, 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,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“As things stand now, most African countries will take long to recover from Covid-19 due to high levels of inequality and poverty. The after-effects of Covid-19 have been most damaging to the most marginalized communities, including those on the front lines of endemic poverty from Angola to Zambia, Ethiopia to Somalia and the Central Africa Republic to Sierra Leone.”

Corporate greed and self-interested nationalism undercuts vaccination in Africa

Multiple waves of the pandemic tore through Africa, having a devastating impact on human rights. Governments’ efforts, in countries such as Somalia, South Africa, Zambia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, to stem its tide were hindered by the global vaccine inequality created by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy nations. By the year’s end, less than 8% of the continent’s 1.2 billion people had been fully vaccinated.

Nearly 9 million cases and more than 220,000 deaths were recorded during the year. South Africa remained the epicenter of the pandemic, in terms of reported cases and deaths.

Meanwhile, wealthy states such as EU member states, the UK and the USA stockpiled more doses than needed, whilst turning a blind eye as Big Pharma put profits ahead of people, refusing to share their technology to enable wider distribution of vaccines. In 2021, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna projected eye-watering profits of up to US$54 billion yet supplied less than 2% of their vaccines to low-income countries. Vaccination distribution continues to be painfully slow across the continent, igniting fears of deepening poverty and a prolonged economic recovery.

Rich and powerful countries used money and their political influence to procure hundreds of millions of doses, shutting poor countries out of the market.

Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director

“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.

“The result was inequitable distribution of these much-needed vaccines, meaning that 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.”

Pandemic lays bare poor healthcare infrastructure, and inequality, while gender-based violence continued to increase across Africa

The devastating consequences of collusion between corporate giants and western governments was compounded by health systems and economic and social support crumbling under the weight of decades of neglect. The result was rising poverty, inequality and food insecurity. Nowhere was this felt more clearly and cruelly than in Africa, which is why Amnesty International launches its report today from South Africa.

With less than 8% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated by the end of 2021, it holds the lowest vaccination rate in the world, beleaguered by insufficient supplies provided to the COVAX facility, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust and through bilateral donations.

Too often, supplies were insufficient, or their arrival times unpredictable, making it hard for governments to build trust among their populations and structure effective roll out campaigns. 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.

The Covid-19 pandemic also highlighted the region’s chronic lack of investment in health sectors over many decades. The already inadequate healthcare systems in most countries were severely strained, especially during the pandemic’s third wave. In Somalia, only one hospital in Mogadishu, the capital, handled all Covid-19-related cases across south central regions for much of the year. Allegations of corruption, including in relation to Covid-19 funds, further undermined health sectors in many countries, including Cameroon and South Africa.

The pandemic has also resulted in many people across Africa left behind in terms of education, including Uganda, which will result in cementing inequality going forward. In South Africa, approximately 750,000 children had dropped out of school by May, over three times the pre-pandemic number.

Gender discrimination and inequality remained entrenched in African countries. Major concerns documented in the region included spikes in gender-based violence, limited access to sexual and reproductive health services and information, the persistence of early and forced marriage, and the exclusion of pregnant girls from schools.

Conflict continues across Africa amidst weak regional and international response

The global failure to build a global response to the pandemic mirrored the global and African Union’s failure to address human rights violations in conflicts on the African continent.

The global failure to build a global response to the pandemic mirrored the global and African Union’s failure to address human rights violations in conflicts on the African continent.

Amnesty International

Human rights abuses in the conflicts on the continent continued unabated in 2021 partly because of the inaction of the African Union Peace and Security Council. Its failure to act on atrocities was most evident in relation to the conflicts in Ethiopia and Mozambique. Despite harrowing accounts of human rights violations that continuously emerged from the conflicts in the two countries, the Peace and Security Council remained disturbingly silent.

New and unresolved conflicts erupted or persisted in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Mozambique, with warring parties violating international human rights and humanitarian law. In their wake, civilians were made collateral damage, millions were displaced, thousands killed, hundreds subjected to sexual violence, and already fragile healthcare and economic systems were brought to the brink.

In the conflict in northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government forces alongside the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), and the Amhara police and militia continued to fight against the Tigrayan forces in a conflict that started in November 2020, affecting…

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