South Africa’s statutory health regulatory bodies, together with the National Health Department, have denounced the ongoing looting and violence, especially acts targeting healthcare facilities and the medicines supply chain.
“We appeal to citizens looting and destroying the healthcare infrastructure and disrupting the provision of health care to consider the long-term consequences of their actions on the health of communities.
“In a time of a pandemic of huge proportions, such acts of violence, looting and the disruption of service will simply fuel the fire,” a joint statement issued on Monday said.
The regulatory bodies are concerned about the acts of violence that are taking place at a time when medicines, including vaccines and access to healthcare services, are a necessity.
“Without health care services, the requisite medicines and vaccines, we will have unnecessary deaths and cause further pandemonium, including severe damage to the economy.”
In the statement – issued by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, Health Professions Council of South Africa, Office of Health Standards Compliance, South African Nursing Council and South African Pharmacy Council – the authorities said they are working closely with the National Health Department to restore the provision of healthcare and essential medicines, including chronic medicines and vaccines.
“We appeal to community, religious and political leaders to spread the word that these acts of criminality are not only harming the economy but are senseless and counterproductive.
“Targeting pharmacies, doctors’ practices, clinics and other healthcare institutions in the midst of a pandemic is detrimental, especially to the old, frail and vulnerable people.”
These bodies said the impact of the destruction on public health is already being felt in societies, with members of the community deprived of healthcare and chronic patients unable to access medicines.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccine sites and vaccines themselves are lost to destruction and looting.
“We further fear that the availability of controlled substances and medicines, which have been looted or stolen in the affected communities, may endanger the health of community members, who may consume these without the supervision and guidance of healthcare professionals.”
The statutory health regulatory bodies called on people to not use any medicines that are not accessed through authorised healthcare institutions.
Such illegal activity may be reported to SAHPRA via firstname.lastname@example.org or to law enforcement agencies.
“We wish to reiterate that the health and prosperity of our nation, as well as the defeat of the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, can never be achieved through the destruction of livelihoods, the economy and the much-needed infrastructure.
“Therefore, let us preserve what is left of the gains in health and economic growth and immediately adopt non-violent means to conflict resolution.”