African Union of Consumers appeals to governments and health specialists to protect Africa from the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic

A press release, issued by The Union’s Daouda Adam, Chairperson of the African Union of Consumers (AUC) on behalf of the organisation, called attention to attempts by pharmaceutical companies and other research groups to use Africans as test subjects for a possible vaccine against COVID-19. While the AUC congratulated African governments for their swift action to protect the continent from the spread of disease, it also issued several calls for more, including the refusal of unethical collaboration with pharmaceutical companies wishing to use Africans as “guinea pigs”, to properly equip treatment centres and healthcare workers with the effective equipment for self protection and infection control, and subsidies for essential products like soap and disinfectants.

The press release is reproduced here below in full.

Press release from the African Union of Consumers (AUC) in respect to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • APPEAL TO AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS AND HEALTH SPECIALISTS
  • POSITIONS AND COMMITMENTS

For over four months now, the whole world has been affected by a deadly and contagious disease called COVID-19. The health, economic, financial, social, political and strategic consequences are devastating for the whole world in general and for the African continent particularly. Compared to other consumers in other regions, consumers on our continent already facing many challenges and obstacles. These include vulnerable health systems, low purchasing power, the predominance of the informal sector in the economic chain and unemployment. There is also a lack of basic social services such as access to drinking water, health, social protection, decent housing, electricity and telecommunications services and products.

Since the outbreak of this health crisis, which constitutes for the whole world and, particularly for our already fragile countries, an increased risk of socio-economic crisis, our member consumer organisations have not failed to draw the attention of governments and to suggest possible solutions to stop Covid19.

The African Union of Consumers congratulates African governments that have taken important and courageous measures to prevent and respond to this pandemic. It further congratulates and encourages health practitioners across the continent who are doing a sacrificial job to combat this pandemic despite the lack of the required equipment and means.

In view of the many efforts to be made before COVID-19 can be overcome in our countries and conscious of the fragility of our economies, health infrastructures and the seriousness of the socio-economic consequences on African economies in general and on consumers in particular, the AUC expresses on the one hand (i) its deep concern about this threat to the health and living conditions of African consumer citizens and on the other hand (ii) its indignation against the attempts by pharmaceutical companies and other research groups to use Africans as scientific guinea pigs in their projects to test a possible vaccine against COVID-19.

Faced with this very worrying situation, the AUC calls on African leaders, African researchers, African civil society and consumers for a strong mobilisation to protect Africa from the devastating consequences of this pandemic and a fight against the attempts to make of Africans "guinea pigs".

To this end, the AUC makes the following recommendations:

To the governments:

  • to strengthen measures to raise awareness and educate people in cities and in the most remote hamlets of our countries about the pandemic and the means of prevention;
  • to equip COVID-19 patient treatment centres and hospitals with effective equipment for protection against the disease and to support health practitioners who are highly exposed to contamination;
  • to subsidise the costs of basic commodities through tax relief or any other appropriate mechanism and to grant food and detergent aid or financial assistance to the most deprived groups of the population and to ensure the effectiveness of these measures;
  • to subsidise prevention products including soap, disinfectant gels and masks for the benefit of all citizens with no distinction and make their use compulsory.
  • alleviate the conditions of access to social services including electricity and water, telecommunications, especially data, which remains expensive in Africa;
  • to take all preventive and effective measures to ensure that the countries on the continent are not used by pharmaceutical companies and other research groups as testing grounds for vaccines against COVID-19 with African consumers as scientific guinea pigs.
  • to undertake at the same time a process of recasting national development plans to take into account the new development challenges after the COVID-19, in particular the national health development plans.
  • to strongly involve consumer organisations in consumer protection actions.

To African researchers and civil society actors:

  • to refuse any form of unethical collaboration that aims to use Africans as guinea pigs in the fields of experimentation by cynical pharmaceutical firms.
  • to denounce any partnership proposal that will be made by pharmaceutical firms and other research groups for this purpose.

To the central banks:

  • grant facilities to governments and banking and micro-finance institutions, in particular in terms of rescheduling of outstanding debts and new credit facilities enabling them to meet current needs;
  • to reduce the costs and fees for access to and use of financial services in our countries, while ensuring the smooth operation of minimum banking services and promoting digital means of transfer or payment.

To Consumers:

  • the AUC invites them to respect the measures of prevention and containment;
  • the AUC encourages them to engage actions of national solidarity both at the level of governments and at the level of health professionals.
  • The AUC urges them to remain vigilant and mobilised to stop any plans to test a vaccine against COVID-19 on the continent using Africans as their guinea pigs;

The UAC calls consumer associations to ensure their citizens watch role on the respect of consumers' rights during this pandemic.

The AUC is a continental and federating organisation of consumers' associations in Africa with headquarters in N'Djamena, Chad.

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