GENEVA — The UNAIDS Executive Director Eng. Winnie Karagwa Byanyima has said that fighting inequalities is one of the major avenues to halt the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that continues to ravage the world.
Eng. Byanyima made the call in a short video clip posted on Saturday April 18, rallying the word to pay attention to the world’s poorest communities, with and estimated half of the 7.6 billion people on the universe living in poverty.
Eng. Byanyima says the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing painful inequalities in society, with its impact most felt among marginalized and vulnerable groups of people especially living in the sub-Saharan Africa.
She noted that the financial and other barriers that prevent people from seeking medical help and advice when in need, must be removed both for their own good and for improved broader public health outcomes.
“Coronavirus is shining a light on painful inequalities that have existed for a long time,” she said, adding that poor people in all countries have a higher burden of existing illness and disease, “making them more vulnerable to the virus”.
She noted that for example, Italy’s health system is overwhelmed yet it has one doctor for every 243 people while Zambia a sub-Saharan African nation only has one doctor for every 10,000 people.
“To fight COVID19 and win, we must challenge these inequalities. That’s also how we’ll sustain recovery,” she said.
She added: “This is particularly true for poor people in all countries where hundreds and hundreds are malnourished. Two thirds living with HIV globally reside in sub-Saharan Africa and millions of them are still waiting to get on lifesaving treatment. So to fight COVID-19 and win, we must challenge these inequalities.”
She called for increase in health spending and social protection as an essential part of the economic response to COVID-19.
She also listed three important actions the public need to press leaders to act on;
1. Protect and reward all health workers fairly.
2. End user fees in health, now and forever.
3. Remove the burden of debt that still burns the hands of developing countries especially low income countries.
“These are not the only three actions needed from world leaders there three actions that we need right away”.
The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 210 countries and territories around the world and 2 international conveyances with 2.3 million infections reported by Saturday April 18.
Uganda has registered 55 infections by Sunday April 19, with 20 people already recovered.