Millions of denied vaccines, increased inequality and human suffering during conflicts sum up 2021
NAIROBI (AXADLE) Wealthy states partnered with corporate giants in 2021 to fool people with empty slogans and false promises of a just recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, while many people from Africa were denied life-saving vaccines, the equivalent of one of ours the biggest betrayal of the time, Amnesty International said today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.
Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The State of the World’s Human Rights notes that these states, along with corporate titans, have in fact driven deeper global inequality, with most African countries 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 crucial wake-up call to tackle inequality and poverty. Instead, we have seen deeper inequality and greater instability in Africa exacerbated by global powers, especially rich countries that failed to ensure that major drugs 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 South Africa.
“As things stand now, most African countries will take a long time to recover from Covid-19 due to high levels of inequality and poverty. The aftermath of Covid-19 has been most damaging to the most marginalized societies, including those on front lines. lines of endemic poverty from Angola to Zambia, Ethiopia to Somalia and the Central African Republic to Sierra Leone. “
Corporate greed and self-interested nationalism undercut vaccination in Africa
Several waves of the pandemic tore through Africa and had 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 hampered by the global vaccine inequality created by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy nations. By the end of the year, 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, Britain and the United States stockpiled more doses than necessary while turning a blind eye as Big Pharma put profits ahead of people and refused to share their technology to enable wider distribution of vaccines. In 2021, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna expected noticeable profits of up to $ 54 billion, but delivered less than 2% of their vaccines to low-income countries. Vaccination distribution continues to be painfully slow across the continent, igniting fears of worsening poverty and a prolonged economic recovery.
“Rich and powerful countries used money and their political influence to provide hundreds of millions of doses, shutting poor countries out of the market,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s director for West and Central Africa.
“The result was an unequal distribution of these much-needed vaccines, meaning most people in low-income countries would be the last to be vaccinated, as if one’s economic status or nationality were the qualifying criteria for being vaccinated.”
Pandemic exposes poor health infrastructure and inequality, while gender-based violence continues to rise across Africa
The devastating consequences of a collaboration between corporate giants and Western governments were exacerbated 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 brand more evident and cruel than in Africa, which is why Amnesty International is launching its report today from South Africa.
With less than 8% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated by the end of 2021, it has the lowest vaccination rate in the world, hampered by inadequate supplies delivered to the COVAX facility, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust and through bilateral donations.
Too often, supplies were inadequate or their arrival times unpredictable, making it difficult for governments to build trust among their populations and structure effective rollout campaigns. In countries such as the DRC, Malawi and South Sudan, vaccine deliveries arrived with short expiry dates, forcing the authorities to destroy supplies or return the bulk for redistribution to other countries.
The Covid-19 pandemic also highlighted the region’s chronic lack of investment in healthcare sectors over many decades. The already inadequate health systems in most countries were severely strained, especially during the third wave of the pandemic. In Somalia, only one hospital in Mogadishu, the capital, handled all Covid-19-related cases across southern central regions for most of the year. Allegations of corruption, including in relation to Covid-19 funds, undermined further health sectors in many countries, including Cameroon and South Africa.
The pandemic has also resulted in many people across Africa being left behind in terms of education, including Uganda, which will result in cementing inequality going forward. In South Africa, about 750,000 children were dropped out of school in May, more than three times the number of pre-pandemics.
Gender discrimination and inequality remained entrenched in African countries. Major concerns documented in the region included increases in gender-based violence, limited access to sexual and reproductive health services and information, persistent premature and forced marriages, and the exclusion of pregnant girls from schools.
The conflict continues throughout Africa amid weak regional and international reaction
The global inability to build a global response to the pandemic reflected the inability of the global and the African Union to deal with human rights violations in conflicts on the African continent.
Human rights violations in the conflicts on the continent continued unabated in 2021, in part due to the lack of action by the African Union Peace and Security Council. Its failure to act on atrocities was most evident in the face of the conflicts in Ethiopia and Mozambique. Despite shocking reports of human rights violations that continually emerged from the conflicts in the two countries, the Peace and Security Council remained alarmingly silent.
New and unresolved conflicts broke out or continued in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Mozambique, where warring parties violated international human rights and humanitarian law. In their wake, civilians were sidelined, millions were displaced, thousands killed, hundreds subjected to sexual violence, and already fragile health and economic systems were brought to the brink.
In the conflict in northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government forces, along with the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) and the Amhara police and militia, continued to fight the Tigray forces in a conflict that started in November 2020 and affected millions. During the conflict, members of the EDF, as well as Ethiopian security forces and militias, committed serious human rights violations, including sexual violence against women, illegal killings and forced evictions. Tigrayan forces were also responsible for serious violations, including unlawful killings, rape, and other sexual violence that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Humanitarian aid was denied to millions of people in Tigray, resulting in many facing life-threatening conditions. Prisoners in the West Tigray were subjected to torture, extrajudicial execution, starvation and refusal of medical care.
In Mozambique, civilians continued to be trapped between three armed forces in the conflict in Cabo Delgado, where more than 3,000 people have died since the conflict began in October 2017. Nearly 1 million people (primarily women, children and the elderly) were internally displaced. displaced as a result of the war.
In the Central African Republic, illegal attacks, including killings and other violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which are tantamount to war crimes, were committed by all parties to the conflict. According to the UN, members of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) health centers attacked and looted health centers in Mbomou Prefecture in January.
In Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, hundreds of civilians were killed by various armed groups.
Governments hiding behind security and Covid-19 to stifle disagreement
Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gained momentum in 2021 across sub-Saharan Africa as governments implemented a wider range of tools and tactics.
Measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 further fueled the suppression of peaceful disagreement across the region, with many governments’ first instinct to ban peaceful protests citing health and security concerns, including in Cameroon, Chad, Côte Ivory Coast, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, organizers were arrested in countries such as Eswatini and South Sudan, and they
internet interrupted to derail planned protests. Security forces used excessive force to break peaceful protests from hundreds or thousands of people who defied bans. In over 12 countries, including Angola, Benin, Senegal, Chad, Eswatini, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Sudan, many people died when security forces fired live ammunition. In Eswatini, the violent spread of pro-democracy protests resulted in 80 deaths and more than 200 wounded in five months. In Sudan, at least 53 people died when security forces used sharp ammunition to disperse protests against the military coup in October.
In Chad, at least 700 people protesting against the electoral process and later against the establishment of the transitional government were arrested. In the DRC, three activists remained arrested in North Kivu for organizing a peaceful sit-in to protest against poor management of a local health administration in detention. In Eswatini, at least 1,000 pro-democracy protesters, including 38 children, were arbitrarily arrested.
“Instead of providing space for much-needed discussion and debate on how best to meet the challenges of 2021, many states have doubled their efforts to silence critical voices.”
Human rights win against all odds
Nevertheless, 2021 was not just doom and gloom. Some important human rights victories were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa following the persistent campaign for liberties.
After months of relentless pro-democracy protests from the people of Eswatini, King Mswati conceded calls for dialogue to negotiate the country’s future with pro-democracy protesters. This offers new hope for a country where political reforms were not up for negotiation with the monarch.
In Sudan, we saw the power of the people in full swing when civilians took to the streets in October to reject a military takeover of soldiers and twists and turns of human rights gains during the transition period.
In Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, dozens of members or sympathizers of opposition parties, as well as members of civil society organizations, who were arbitrarily arrested for simply exercising their freedom of expression or peaceful assembly, were released.
Reclaim our freedoms
In 2022, if governments intend to rebuild – then we have few options. We must fight their every attempt to silence our voices, and we must stand up against any betrayal. That is why in the coming weeks we are launching a global campaign for solidarity with popular movements, a campaign that demands respect for the right to protest. We must build and exploit global solidarity, even if our leaders do not want to.