‘COVID-19 Is A Human Rights Challenge,’ Says Chairperson of African Commission


By Momodou Jarju

The Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Solomon Ayele Dersso, disclosed last week that the COVID-19 pandemic, on its own, is a human rights challenge that threatens the right to health and the right to life.

“We have come to realize over the last number of months, the COVID-19 pandemic and strict measures adopted to curb its spread have posed an unprecedented challenge not only for health

and ill-equip healthcare systems on the continent, but also to the realization of a wide range of human and peoples’ rights, including economic, social, and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights,” he said.

Chairperson Dersso made the remarks last Friday 7th August, 2020, at the closing ceremony of the 25-day 66th ordinary session of the African Commission via Zoom platform.

Dersso said the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought up other human rights issues, particularly the nature of the regulations adopted by state parties to the African Charter, adding most significantly, as a result of the way the adopted covid-19 regulations have been enforced through the use of national security institutions.

Beyond that, Dersso said COVID-19 has also led to major socio-economic challenge across the continent. And considering the already fragile socio-economic well-being of most of the public on the continent, the human rights defender said the pandemic is pushing millions of people into extreme poverty.

Thus, Chairperson Dersso said this is creating conditions that will make it difficult for most of the youth to have expectation for the bright future and to achieve their socio-economic potentials.

“The covid-19 pandemic has accentuated already poor access to healthcare not only for purpose of dealing with Covid-19, but it has even laid to the destruction of other areas of the right to health, such as most notably the destruction that it caused for access to sexual and reproductive health rights for pre and post natal care for pregnant women,” he said.

Speaking further, Chairperson Dersso said the pandemic highlighted major gaps in the continent’s governance system and in the health sector, in terms of fulfilling the right to health and through fulfilling the right of the public.

“The pandemic also lay bare, as highlighted the inequalities and the fragilities and the vulnerabilities that affect large segment of the public,” he said.

The chairperson also highlighted some of the topics they covered during the 66th ordinary session, including the current defining human rights issues, deepening inequalities, wide spread poverty, racism, gender oppression and the crises of democratic governance as well as the climate emergency.