African countries need to ensure that the health of refugees is protected during the COVID-19 pandemicPosted: 21 June, 2021
Author: Omotunde Enigbokan
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
The protection of the right to health for refugees in Africa requires urgent attention, especially in this period when evidence shows that new variants of the coronavirus are spreading. As we celebrate World Refugee Day on 20 June 2021, and against the backdrop of the UNHCR’s theme ‘Together we heal, learn and shine’, it is pertinent that we interrogate how African countries are ensuring that the right to health for refugees, is guaranteed. This is particularly important with the development of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, and in the onset of the administration of these vaccines in Africa.
Challenges faced by refugees in Africa
Existing research underlines the need for heightening refugees’ access to health facilities. Research further shows that refugees have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. This situation is further compounded by the fact that many refugees live in overpopulated camps or reception centres, where they lack adequate access to health services, clean water and sanitation. This makes them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
Author: Juliet Nyamao
Human Rights Attorney, Kenyan Bar
16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that runs yearly from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, International Human Rights Day. The period is observed in many African countries including Kenya, culminating in a colorful thematic event on the last day of the campaign. During this period, governments may reevaluate their national policies and action plans to completely eradicate practices that discriminately affect women in the community. This campaign provides an opportune moment to create awareness, on a worldwide scale, of the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and to galvanise support to curtail its escalation to pandemic proportions.
Author: Juliet Nyamao
Human Rights Attorney, Kenyan Bar
On 31 December 2019, The World Health Organisation (WHO) was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. One week later, on 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a novel coronavirus as the cause of the pneumonia. Following this discovery, China witnessed unprecedented increase in morbidity and mortality rates of victims of the virus. Ultimately, the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international attention under the International Health Regulations (2005), following recommendations from the members and advisers to International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia. Although measures were taken to halt international travel the virus had already spread to other regions of the world including Africa. According to the John Hopkins University Corona Virus Resource Center, the pandemic has had devastating effects in Europe, Asia and the Americas with mortality rate of more than 100,000 people, with a total of more than 1.7 million confirmed cases worldwide.
Author: Satang Nabaneh
Project Officer, Women Rights Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
In dealing with past human rights abuses and upholding standards of respect for human rights, The Gambia’s transition from an abusive regime to democracy must also entail justice for victims of gender-based violence. Consequently, the most illustrative example of addressing sexual violence being part of the democratisation of society happened last month when 23-year-old former beauty queen, Fatou ‘Toufah’ Jallow accused former President Jammeh of rape.
Toufah detailed her story from the starting point of winning the state-sponsored beauty pageant in 2014 when she was 18 years old. Over the next few months, Jammeh lavished her with cash gifts and other favors including installation of running water in her family house. She was offered a position as a “protocol girl,” to work at the State House, which she declined. She also turned down his marriage proposal. During a pre-Ramadan Quran recital at State House, Jammeh locked her in a room and told her: “There’s no woman that I want that I cannot have.” She said that he then hit and taunted her, injected her with a liquid, and raped her. Days later, she fled to neighboring Senegal.
The kidnapping by Boko Haram of over 200 school girls in Northern Nigeria is an act of gender based violence for which not only Boko Haram is responsible, but also the Nigerian government. Indeed the militant group has carried out atrocities against boys and men that are equally deplorable, however, in this instance it is not by chance that Boko Haram kidnapped girls. They were targeted because they are girls.
The leader of Boko Haram said in a video shortly after the kidnapping that he would sell the girls in the market. His statement is reflective of an exceptional disdain for girls, which did not exist in isolation, but within a patriarchal society where harmful stereotypes perpetuate girls’ inferiority and enable violence against women to be an accepted norm. Amnesty International has reported that up to two thirds of Nigerian women may have experienced violence in the home by an intimate partner. While domestic violence differs in nature from the kidnapping of over 200 school girls, the common thread is the context within which the acts occur; in a society which does not accord women equal value and provides the structural conditions whereby a girl or woman can be abused in the home or kidnapped and threatened to be sold in the market.
South Africa has some of the most progressive legislation on gender equality in the world yet there is a lack of de facto equality in this country. A new Bill has been put forth to further promote women empowerment and gender equality – will this be the solution?
In September 2012 the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities presented the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill (the Equality Bill). The purpose of the new Bill is to establish a legislative framework for the empowerment of women and to provide an obligation to adopt and implement gender mainstreaming. The Bill includes detailed provisions regarding these issues such as encouraging the recognition of the economic value of the roles of women in various sectors of life, and the achievement of at least 50 % representation and participation of women in decision-making structures in all entities.