SADC affirms COVID-19 response strategy

By Hilary Mare

IN addition to the measures put in place by member States, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has put, and will continue putting in place, regional measures that are critical in responding to the COVID-19. So far, SADC has undertaken ten (10) regional coordinated actions to contain the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its social and economic impacts on the region.

SADC recorded its first case of COVID-19 in early March, and since then, the numbers have been increasing. As of 15th April, 2020, fourteen (14) of the sixteen (16) SADC Member States have been affected by COVID-19 – Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Council of Ministers of the SADC recently held their emergency virtual meeting where, among others, the Ministers adopted the regional Guidelines for the harmonisation and facilitation of movement of critical goods and services across SADC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These regional actions pertain to strengthening disaster risk management; suspension of regional face-to-face meetings; coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the SADC protocol on health, utilization of the SADC pooled procurement services for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and the adoption of regional guidelines on harmonisation and facilitation of cross border transport operations across the Region during the COVID-19.

Other actions include, mobilisation of regional support towards containment and mitigation of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the SADC region; and partnering with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to ensure continuity of education and learning programmes. The SADC Secretariat is also monitoring and analysing the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 on SADC economies as well as providing weekly Regional Status reports and daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in the region.

In his remarks, the chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, Professor Palamagamba John Kabudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, hailed the adoption of the guidelines as an important milestone in coordinating regional response that addresses the health and socio-economic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prof. Kabudi called on Member States to strengthen their solidarity to contain the spread of the virus while maintaining movement of essential goods and services across regional borders.