Having just commemorated Human Rights Day in South Africa on 21 March we were reminded of the sacrifices made by those who struggled for our freedom. However, at this most difficult and uncertain time, we honour the heroes on the frontline who are protecting and fighting for our right to health, staying at work whilst many of us are able to stay home.
Amidst the looming COVID-19 emergency, the inequities across our region are now starker than ever. It is hard not to feel grave concern for many of our overcrowded communities and informal settlements, which are not equally provided the right to running water or sanitation and do not have the privilege of being able to apply physical distance measures. This leaves the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities at risk, particularly those living with HIV and those living with chronic illnesses. Untold pressure on an overstretched and poorly resourced public health system will require unprecedented leadership, solidarity and sacrifice.
Today, like no other, we acknowledge and give thanks for the bravery of our public health workforce who are at the epicentre of the COVID-19 storm. We are reminded, that this workforce, outside of this emergency, are often undervalued, poorly paid and not given the right to workplace safety and security. Considering South Africa’s Human Rights Day, we ask our governments and development partners to prioritise and accelerate mechanisms to expand frontline capacity, share information, and urgently manufacture and distribute much needed protective clothing and life-saving equipment. We are reminded that during a time of disaster, frontline health providers are still required to continue providing essential services. Ongoing health services are still critical for mother-baby care, non-communicable and communicable disease management, ongoing HIV testing and treatment and reproductive health. Let’s also support, mobilise and provide the necessary protection and safeguarding for our community health worker cadres.
We need to assist, where possible, a shift to dispensing multiple month ART prescriptions and remove all unnecessary visits to health facilities or pressure on our health system. As we enter this storm, let’s come together in solidarity to offer operational, logistical, motivational and psychosocial support for those on the frontline of health service delivery. Where possible, let’s offer online consults, helpline or SMS platforms to continue offering peer support to stay connected and to share national information and guidance – always standing up to and fighting stigma! Let´s #EndCOVID19 by recognising #NothingForUsWithoutHealthProviders.
Together, we will develop and deliver a #TeamPATA Community Action Network.
A COVID-19 folder will be available in the PATA resource hub in the next few days where #TeamPATA will share important updates and materials.