THE World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday raised a red flag over the capacity of some African countries to enforce effective lockdowns because of poverty, saying the measure was tantamount to an infringement on people’s rights as most citizens lived from hand to mouth.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Africa to effect a complete 21-day lockdown, forcing people into their homes to combat the spread of coronavirus which has ravaged the world.
However, the country has an unemployment rate of more than 90%, with millions of people surviving on the informal sector.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing on Monday that for most countries in Africa, though necessary, lockdowns were affecting people’s livelihoods.
He said most countries had taken measures that include closing of schools and forcing people into homes, but that could only work in countries with sound social welfare systems.
“That can only buy time, but at the same time, each and every country has a strong social welfare system, but other countries don’t and I come from Africa, as you know, and I know many people actually have to work every single day to win their daily bread and governments should take this population into account,” Ghebreyesus said.
“If we are closing and limiting movements, what is going to happen to those people who have to work on a daily basis who have to earn their bread on a daily basis?”
He said governments have to take into consideration the rights of people and ensure citizens’ rights are observed.
In Zimbabwe, for example, many people rely on vending and other menial jobs to survive but due to the lockdown, they have been forced into their homes, effectively destroying their source of livelihood.
By yesterday, in many areas across the country, people aborted the lockdown and citizens were seen going about their normal business.
In Mvurwi, Chiredzi and even some areas in Harare’s high-density residential areas, people were seen queuing at shops for mealie-meal.
WHO executive director for health emergencies, Michael Ryan, said “society-wide” measures were not easy to implement as they also affect people’s rights.
“Society-wide measures are not easy. They are difficult and they are hurting people,” he said.
Ryan said lockdowns and shutdowns should be done with the engagement of the people to be affected in communities.
Zimbabwe’s national lockdown entered its second day yesterday, with many sticking to government orders to stay at home.
The biggest challenge, however, remained the issue of failure to access basics that include potable water and the staple food, mealie-meal, a situation which forced many out of their homes to queue for the little available supplies.