SADC to Assess COVID-19 Impact, Chart Way Forward

SADC member states are mulling to launch a comprehensive socio-economic evaluation of Covid-19’s impact on the region and proffer short, medium and long-term measures for consideration by the bloc for the resuscitation of their economies.

In an interview with Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), Sadc head of communications and public relations Barbara Lopi said this initiative was part of continuing efforts to coordinate the fight against the deadly pandemic.

An assessment of the economic impact was necessary as Covid-19 response measures taken by the majority of member countries had disrupted operations and business with the general exception of essential services but with no complete information on the scale of the problem.

The closure of borders has led to a few commodities being traded among member states with lockdown restrictions affecting the economic viability of enterprises and the regional supply chains.

“The blockade of free movement of goods and services across borders has affected traded products within the region. Guidelines are being put in place for the movement of essential goods, drugs, other pharmaceutical equipment and food items.

“There is value in regional coordination and there is need to continue working together to share information and best practices. There is also need to put in place all the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation and recommendations that Sadc is providing,” said Ms Lopi.

Measures are also being put in place to minimise the impact of the lockdown on migrant labour.

The Sadc employment and labour sector already has key frameworks for the protection of migrant workers after regional ministers of labour met with employers and trade unions in March and adopted new Sadc labour migration plan.

The plan facilitated cooperation between member states to ensure that the rights of labour migrant and their welfare were protected and would be implemented in the next five years.

Regional ministers have also adopted guidelines on the portability of social security benefits earned by migrants during the course of their employment in foreign countries.

“We are confident that the Sadc labour and employment action plan will be able to address migration challenges. The Sadc regional disaster preparedness committee has already been formed as agreed in February.

“The (Sadc) secretariat has been compiling on a weekly basis, reports on the status of Covid-19 and providing policy recommendations to member states on emerging issues that need to be attended to,” she said.

Sadc was working with various United Nations agencies including WHO, Unesco and Unicef as well as the African Centre for Disease Control to ensure the procurement of medical supplies to strengthen member states’ capacity to respond to covid-19 in terms of management of infection, prevention, control and surveillance.

“We are in partnership with Unesco in an initiative known as “learning never stops” to support the continuity of education using different ICT technologies. Unicef is helping with a joint regional action plan on short and long term action against Covid-19 and has assisted in getting essential health supplies in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Madagascar and Mozambique just to mention a few countries.”

Through information collected from member states, Sadc is compiling a list of the critical gaps the countries were facing in their response to Covid-19 and had since engaged the African Development Bank to support the fight against the pandemic

Regional governments are also committed to the 2001 Abuja Declaration for all African states to commit 15 percent of their national budgets to health.

African leaders have emphasised the need to invest in health to drive human capital development. There has been good progress although a number of countries are still to meet the 15 percent target.

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