Covid-19

Maverick Citizen: Coronavirus

Call for Action: Covid-19 mass education and decisive action now

Illustrative image | sources: Wikimedia / PNGtree.com

A Call to Action made by the Civil Society Coordinating Collective, an informal network of up to 50 organisations based mainly in Gauteng and committed to building a coalition in uniting progressive forces in our struggle for social justice.

Last week, as the seriousness of the threat posed by Covid-19 dawned on more and more civil society organisations, several bodies met to begin to plan how best to organise a united response to the coronavirus pandemic, one that both prevents new infections and protects human rights.

This included the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which met over the weekend with other organisations of people living with HIV. In addition, activists met at Khanya College and agreed on the first phase of a mobilisation plan in five regions of Gauteng. They have also produced basic information flyers in English, Sesotho & isiZulu, available at Khanya House.

Maverick Citizen will closely monitor and report on the civil society response and how it advances the national effort. Below we publish a Call to Action made by the Civil Society Coordinating Collective, an informal network of up to 50 organisations based mainly in Gauteng and committed to building a coalition in uniting progressive forces in our struggle for social justice:

Call to Action:

We welcome the clarity provided by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the eve of 15 March 201. We are in agreement that Covid-19 can only be mitigated through joint efforts of civil society, the private sector, government and all people living in South Africa. However, we believe a number of issues need to be reiterated and prioritised.

Call on Civil Society Organisations:

As civil society organisations we realise the need to work collaboratively and prevent the scourge of fear, panic and misinformation to ensure the further spread of Covid-19 is limited. We as individuals and in our work spaces all have a role to play in this to ensure that our own families and communities are educated and made aware of the seriousness of this pandemic.

Civil society organisations represent and provide services for the most marginalised and vulnerable people and communities living in South Africa. It is imperative that we recognise that the spread of disease in its nature is equal and perpetuates injustice and will disproportionately affect the people we most directly work with.

Disease and Covid-19 will impact upon the intersections of all our work towards combating health injustice, prejudice and stigma, homophobia and xenophobia … and will, if not taken seriously, have far-reaching impact on families, communities, and the country as has already been seen in the rest of the globe.

We have a TB and HIV pandemic in South Africa. It is critical that we know our status and take our treatment to ensure we have strong immune systems.

In first acknowledging the detrimental impact Covid-19 could have, we need to do all we can to prevent its further spread in communities.

What can be done:

  •   Mass public education campaign to ensure all people have basic accurate info about Covid-19 and make the required behaviour change (no handshakes; cough hygiene, social distancing and testing when recommended);
  •   To coordinate community education and information sharing sessions;
  •   Identifying and supporting vulnerable groups; old people, sick people, nurses, people living, travelling or working in overcrowded conditions;
  •   Countering panic, stockpiling, misinformation and stigma through sharing factual and informative information from which people can self-prevent;
  •   Volunteering when needed for organisations who experience a particular burden of need;
  •   To coordinate among civil society organisations how resources and capacity can be distributed to ensure the delivery of essential services during a crisis;
  •   Taking effective and appropriate steps to ensure sufficient access to clean water, soap and/or hand sanitisers where necessary for disadvantaged and underresourced communities who lack access to what is required to observe safe hygiene practices during this period to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Call on private sector and business:

As has already been seen, disease will impact us all. We call on the private sector and business to act fast to mitigate and support the prevention of Covid-19. We call for the following:

  •   Share the burden with public health systems; provide free testing; ensure access to ICU and hospital care for public patients who need to be hospitalised.
  •   Ensure paid sick leave for all workers, especially vulnerable workers like gig employees, domestic workers, mining and agricultural labourers.
  •   Assist in funding and disseminating information for public education efforts.

Call on the state to Act:

As civil society organisations we acknowledge the efforts by the government to keep people informed and up to date on the virus. However, we demand the following:

  •   To acknowledge the severity this could have on vulnerable people, especially those living with illness;
  •   To ring-fence emergency funds to contribute to the mass mobilisation and education campaign to stop the spread of Covid-19 and inform behavioural change (washing hands, no handshakes or hugging). Ensure campaigns provide clear information in all languages and can be shared widely;
  •   To provide full transparency regarding updates on new cases, their location and where people can seek healthcare services;
  •   Ensure interdepartmental efforts to develop and disseminate infection control plans which are implemented in schools, universities, hospitals, clinics and other public facilities and offices. All public facilities have hand washing facilities at their entrance and exit points;
  •   That there is no discrimination of undocumented people in accessing health services;
  •   A moratorium of detention and deportation of all people is granted for the next month;
  •   That detention facilities ensure sufficient medical services and testing for all in their facilities and intensify infection controls measures, especially in facilities with overcrowding;
  •   The Department of Home Affairs to extend all asylum permits for six months to circumvent the spread of Covid-19 at Refugee Reception Centres, known to have long queues and high numbers of people;
  •   Emergency provision of water, food and sanitation are provided where necessary;
  •   Ensure that healthcare workers in local and district health facilities are properly equipped, trained, and protected;
  •   Maintain all essential services with the support of volunteers if necessary;

Disease thrives on inequality, discrimination and prejudice. We need campaigns to stop stigma and fake news, prevent panic; take precautions and don’t fuel prejudice. DM

This call is endorsed by:

Sophiatown Community Psychological Services; Sonke Gender Justice; Just Associates Southern Africa; Lawyers for Human Rights; Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CORMSA).

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"