Friday 19 July

Access to lifesaving medical resources for African countries: COVID-19 testing and response, ethics, and politics

by: Matthew M Kavanagh, Ngozi A Erondu, Oyewale Tomori, Victor J Dzau, Emelda A Okiro, Allan Maleche, Ifeyinwa C Aniebo, Umunyana Rugege, Charles B Holmes, Lawrence O Gostin.


Part of an interdisciplinary and international team of authors, SECTION27 executive director Umunyana Rugege contributed to an article today published in The Lancet on access to medical resources for the Covid-19 response in Africa.

In the context of global shortages of urgently needed medical supplies to roll-out mass screening, testing and treatment of Covid-19, this article argues that

“Governments have an obligation to protect their own citizens. However, principles of fairness must be applied. No single community, country, or continent should bear the full brunt of global shortages. Although difficult decisions in resource allocation are inevitable, it is unethical for African countries to have considerably less access and harder choices than others.”


The African context offers unique challenges to the Covid-19 response, but also promising opportunities. With many countries, like South Africa, having needed to face the dual pandemics of HIV and Tuberculosis for many years already, local health systems have disease response capacity catered to the specificities African contexts.

Despite pressing contingencies, the need to uphold and promote ethics and human rights in this crisis remains pertinent – public health systems must be strengthened and supported, even in ways which sidestep market forces, to reach those who need their critical services most. The authors reiterate that lives of Africans on the continent are of “equal worth” and should not therefore be shunted to the back of the global procurement line for essential medical goods.  Human rights, the authors show, are critical to an effective and ethical health crisis response on the continent.


Read the full article: Access to lifesaving medical resources for African countries- COVID-19 testing and response, ethics, and politics-UR-2020.


For media queries, contact Julia Chaskalson ( or +27 83 440 2674).


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