The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is to invest in social programmes. Many of South Africa’s public services, including the public health system, remain underfunded, despite increased investment since democracy. This exacerbates high levels of inequality, now worsened by the lockdown measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.

In this context, the government’s response to the pandemic should be more focused on maximising available resources to protect human rights: to support access to water and sanitation; food sovereignty; resilient healthcare and education systems; and to ensure essential support for households hard hit by the pandemic and economic depression.

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