ICJ and ZimRights appeal to AU on Zim Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) of Africa and Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) have called for the intervention of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) to urge the Zimbabwean government to provide transparent plans on vaccine procurement, distribution and roll-out.

This comes on the backdrop of the government failing to produce, publish and widely disseminate a comprehensive plan on vaccine acquisition and distribution.

Despite announcements by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development on their intention towards procurement and rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe and that a budget of US$100 million was set aside, no detailed plan has been provided beyond this expression of intent.

Zimbabwe received 200 000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine via a donation from China and has started the vaccination program in Harare while 600 000 doses of the same are yet to be delivered in March.

In a letter of February 17, 2021, ICJ Africa Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh and ZimRights National Director Dzikamai Bere called on Chairperson of the ACHPR Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Commissioner Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga to intervene for the protection of the rights to health and life in Zimbabwe.

This is ZimRights second attempt to push for transparency, as on February 3, 2021, the organisation approached the Harare High Court on an urgent basis but was dismissed on February 8, 2021 with the court saying the matter lacked urgency.

Due to Zimbabwe’s national lockdown orders, courts are only permitted to deal with urgent matters forcing ZimRights to lodge an appeal, whose outcome is awaiting determination by the Supreme Court.

ICJ and ZimRights said the Zimbabwean government neglected to put in place necessary measures to guarantee roll out and availability of the Covid-19 vaccines to its population, in compliance with its obligations under article 16 (2) 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and articles 2 and 12 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

This failure said the two organisations “has resulted in and will exacerbate unnecessary loss of life, a right also protected by the article 4 of the African Charter 12 and article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

“As of February 3, 2021, Zimbabwe had been allocated 1 152 000 doses under the World Health Organization (WHO) COVAX facility. However, COVAX has issued a precautionary note that its indicative distribution was intended to provide interim guidance to facility participants and therefore it is ‘not binding and may be subject to change. Zimbabwe is also entitled three million doses procured through the African Union,” said the organisations.

The Zimbabwean government “has failed to establish clear measures, policies, regulations, protocols and a comprehensive plan for the acquisition and rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and failed to provide detailed information on the Covid-19 vaccine storage and distribution infrastructure,” said ICJ and ZimRights who said these failures are a serious breach of Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations and the requirements of its domestic law.

The organisations said through ACHPR intervention it may be possible to secure vital information from Zimbabwean officials about its national plan for Covid-19 vaccine procurement, distribution and roll-out.

We have not been able to access such information, despite attempts through judicial, executive and legislative channels,” said ICJ and ZimRights.

“We therefore would request that you urgently urge the Government of Zimbabwe to allocate and disclose its budget for Covid-19 vaccines and identify the resources that will be required to purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines.

“Publish a detailed national acquisition and distribution plan for Covid-19 vaccines with requisite time frames and implementation measures which should include the following information: a) Which vaccines will be acquired, from which sources, in which quantities and at what cost? b) When and how will vaccines be delivered to Zimbabwe? c) When and how will the vaccines be registered in Zimbabwe? d) When and how will vaccines be distributed in Zimbabwe? e) When and how will vaccines be stored in Zimbabwe? f) When and how will vaccine rollout begin? How will Zimbabwe ensure prioritisation for vaccination complies with WHO guidelines and international human rights standards including the prohibition on discrimination? g) At what stage is it estimated that the critical mass of 60 percent of the Zimbabwean population will be vaccinated?”

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