South African President warns pandemic has set back African development

Despite the continent-wide approach taken by African countries to combat COVID-19, the pandemic has set back their development aspirations, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told world leaders at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

Speaking via video-link, Mr. Ramaphosa noted that, with resources redirected to fighting the virus, efforts to provide housing, health care, water and sanitation, and education have been hampered, and called for interest payments on African countries’ debt to be suspended.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals


“Until we eradicate global poverty, we will always fall short of realizing the vision of the founders of the United Nations”, Mr. Ramaphosa told world leaders, reminding them of the importance of meeting all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The South African President emphasized gender equality, including the expansion of opportunities for women, and ensuring their rights in the workplace, political life, and in society as a whole.

South Africa, he noted, is a member of the UN’s Generation Equality, prioritizing the eradication of gender-based violence and femicide, and is working to adopt an African Union Convention on violence against women. African Union member states, he continued, are also working on measures to support financial inclusion for women.

‘Silence the guns’


Turning to peace and security matters, Mr. Ramaphosa declared that South Africa is continuing with efforts to “silence the guns”, through conflict resolution and peace-building.

Increased cooperation between the UN and African Union has, he said, contributed to improving peace and security in the Darfur region of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic.

And, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, South Africa has, continued Mr. Ramaphosa, promoted international peace and security by advocating for the peaceful settlement of disputes and inclusive dialogue.

‘Advance green economies’


Looking ahead to the post-pandemic recovery, Mr. Ramaphosa noted that it presents an opportunity to “place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient developmental path”.

The principles of green, and circular, economies must be advanced, he declared, for the sake of the environment, as well as for job creation and economic growth.

The South African premier added that climate change adaptation, mitigation and support must be at the heart of the global recovery effort.

A choice between tolerance and prejudice
For Mr. Ramaphosa, one of the upshots of the pandemic is that is has presented the world with a choice, and an opportunity to create a new order, rooted in “solidarity, equality and unity of purpose.”

“When history faithfully records the global response to the worst health emergency of this century”, concluded Mr. Ramaphosa, “let it be said that we stood and acted as one, that we provided leadership, and that we gave the peoples of all nations hope and courage”.

Violence leaves more than 300,000 ‘completely reliant’ on assistance in northern Mozambique.

We are deeply concerned about the unfolding humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado where conflict and violence have left people without access to food and livelihoods,” Antonella D’Aprile, WFP Representative for Mozambique, said in news release, on Tuesday.


“The growing insecurity and poor infrastructure have meant that reaching out to people in need has become harder and now with COVID-19 the crisis becomes even more complex,” added the WFP official.

Latest findings from the famine early warning system, FEWSNET, indicate that communities will continue to face “crisis” levels of food insecurity – IPC Phase 3 – into early 2021.

Any additional shocks could rapidly worsen the situation, especially for women and children, according to the UN agency.

The situation is even more worrisome given that Cabo Delgado has the second highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the country, with more than half of children under the age of five chronically malnourished. In addition, with the province currently recording the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Mozambique, population displacements have the potential to accelerate the spread of coronavirus.

Resources urgently needed
WFP said it urgently needs $4.7 million per month to assist the internally displaced in northern Mozambique, and that without additional funding it will be forced to reduce food rations as early as December.

Despite significant operational challenges, the UN agency, in collaboration with the Government, plans to reach 310,000 people each month in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Niassa with food, vouchers and nutrition support.

Since 2017, Cabo Delgado had been experiencing attacks by non-State armed groups, leading to gradual displacement of communities. The attacks also resulted in loss of lives and severely damaged infrastructure, causing disruptions in the access to those most in need.

With the latest violence forcing thousands of refugees across the border, into neighbouring Tanzania, concerns over the regionalization of the conflict are deepening, added WFP.