NGOs make move to cover for COVID-19 losses

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Public Services International (PSI), an NGO, says it seeks srategies on how to resuscitate the economy and cover the losses that countries suffered during the COVID-19 period.

Sani Baba, Regional Secretary, PSI, spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Tuesday during PSI Regional Conference.

He said there was an engagement with African governments and the European Union (EU), where efforts were made to solicit funding to deal with post COVID-19 issues.

He said the EU had really granted almost 400 million euros when they met.

“The big issue is when these funds come, how are they really going to be channeled toward supporting our infrastructure?

“This is one thing that is very fundamental in Africa; before Ebola, we had problems with our infrastructure and when ebola came and we were really put to test, we didn’t do much and now here we are with COVID-19.

“So, that’s why we really discovered that though without the statistics, clearly, Africa has suffered a lot of losses and also during the COVID-19.

“Because we do not have the sufficient records to actually report the actual statistics of what happened country by country but then of course, what it does is to affect the economy.

“And what we’re talking about here is governments have taken so much loans from China, also from other foreigners like IMF and World bank.

“But unfortunately, what they are doing now? They are trying to service their pay back not really the debt,’’ he said.

“Most countries are already running in deficit; they do not have enough money to support public infrastructure be it health, education, energy, water and the rest of them all.

“So, at the end of this programme, hopefully ,we will come up with a strategy on how to engage our governments and also some regional and international congenital bodies like ECOWAS and EU.

“This is so that we can actually make some demands on how some of these issues can be clearly looked at,’’ he said.

Also speaking, Ritta Mbisi from South Africa, said that the essence of the gathering was to review what happened, post-COVID-19 and review preparedness for the pandemic and future pandemics.

“We don’t want to be caught with our pants down again like we did with COVID-19.

“That came as a surprise, and when the world was closed, only the health workers were able to go out and work and also serve the countries.

“We have invited what we call academics from different universities to present papers because they were able to do their research on the pre-COVID and the post-COVID.

“And how the public funds were utilised from the government so that they can combat the COVID-19.

“So, what is expected now is that we should then look inwardly as to what have we done as workers, how we can as unions make sure that we protect the union’s rights of the workers and also set the records rights.

“And what is it that we can improve on in future, where and when we are confronted with such situation,’’ she said.

Daniel Oberko, PSI Tax, Trade and Digitalisation Coordinator, Ghana, said that the regional conference was on health, especially post COVID-19.

Oberko said that the essence was to look at some of the new developments taking place in health services, especially investment in health services.

He said this was important because one of the things realised during COVID-19 was that health workers became or health workers were the frontline staff/workers in the campaign or fight against COVID-19.

“It was realised that some of these health workers faced all kinds of challenges and some who were also promised all kinds of benefits after COVID-19 were not given their promises.

“Most importantly, we knew or we know that one of the things COVID-19 did to us was to expose how weak our health systems are.

“Because we are not investing in the various capital investment in health or various infrastructure of health.

“We are not investing in ensuring that the working conditions of health sector workers especially nurses and other auxiliary workers are improved.

“Our concern is that we need to start talking or having a conversation on investment in health services.

“The unfortunate thing is that government is always focusing on private investment in health,’’ he said.

Oberko said that all what the conference was saying was that, there were challenges with private sector interest in investments in health services.

“The challenge is that, one, because of the use of private equity in investing in health services, it limits government ability to raise revenue from the health sector itself to invest in the health services, to employ more workers and to improve on their working conditions’’.

The News Agency of Nigeria NAN reports that the conference was organised by Public Services International with collaboration with Open Society Foundation and Center for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research.

Ten English and French speaking African countries were in attendance.

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