Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) president Christophe Mboso N’kodia Pwanga has called on all SADC Member States to eliminate “the invisible wall that is hampering Africa’s ability to access vaccines and ensure that everyone has access to this potentially lifesaving medication”.

“We further implore SADC states to move with speed to domesticate the SADC Protocol on Health and successfully implement the SADC Pharmaceutical Programme which advocates for regional pharmaceutical hubs,” said Pwanga.

“These will go a long way in addressing inequalities in access to crucial medication and vaccines.”

The SADC PF president made the remarks during the closing of the 49th Plenary Assembly Session held from June 25 to 27, under the theme: “Leveraging the AfCTA for post-Covid-19 economic recovery in Southern Africa – The role of the SADC Parliamentary Forum and National Parliaments“.

Pwanga also called on all SADC parliamentarians to urge their governments and other role players in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic to ensure that vaccine campaigns in the SADC region deliberately include women in order to improve their access to vaccines.

Pwanga is also president of the National Assembly of the DRC, which is one of the African countries hardest hit by the pandemic due to ongoing political conflict.

DRC President Félix Tshisekedi in mid-June said that the Covid-19 situation in the country was “very serious” and that “the hospitals were saturated and there were many deaths”.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Africa desperately needs 20 million second-dose vaccines for those who received the first dose for the Covid-19 vaccination to be effective.

The organisation highlighted the urgency of acquiring the vaccine before the prescribed interval between dose one and dose two comes to an end.

Dose one of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine provides 70% protection to Covid-19 for up to 12 weeks, with the second dose providing 81% protection for an extended period of time. The WHO did not say specifically for how long the full course of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will offer protection against Covid-19.

Speaking on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Pwanga called on SADC governments to, in addition to ratifying the AfCFTA, also domesticate, implement and comply with the provisions of the AfCFTA Agreement.

“We implore the SADC governments to deliberately and collectively create a peaceful and secure environment for their citizens and become a beacon of peace while creating a conducive environment for regional trade to thrive,” he said.

“We urge all national parliaments, in collaboration with the SADC PF Secretariat, to capacitate parliamentarians on their legislative and oversight mandate to ensure the effective implementation of the AfCFTA and to build a more inclusive and equitable SADC region beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The session encouraged all parliamentarians in the SADC region to take full advantage of the AfCFTA to develop programmes that are targeted at empowering women to fully participate in trade and to ensure that trade enhances opportunities for all, Pwanga said.

“We also call for close collaboration between the SADC parliaments and the AfCFTA Secretariat, including other stakeholders, to partner with the women in the SADC region in promoting gender-friendly trade policies and to raise awareness on the challenges that women face in conducting trade, particularly across our borders.”

Editor@tech-talk.co.za

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