Eritrea’s Statement at the 66th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Statement by the Delegation of the State of Eritrea
66th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Agenda item 3. “Human Rights Situation in Africa”
18 July 2020

Mr. Chairman!

At the outset, I wish to extend to you, other members of the Commission and all participants in this session my delegation’s warm greetings and best wishes for your safety in the prevailing situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also would like to congratulate the four newly elected and sworn-in Commissioners and wish them success in their work.

Understandably, this session and the agenda item on the ‘Situation of Human Rights in Africa’ are focused on the COVID-19 Pandemic which has created deep effects in our continent and the world at large. The pandemic is unprecedented in recent history and is not only challenging global health systems but is accompanied by a deep economic downturn with serious impacts to the ideals of humanity.

The dearth of concrete understanding in regard to its origin, nature and treatment, the ease of transmission has caused panic across the globe. The loss of lives, the destruction of economies and livelihood witnessed in many countries, even in those countries with much better capacities than our continent, is terrifying.

In the few months after the pandemic was detected in Africa, 600,000 people have tested positive and 13,000 people have lost their lives due to COVID 19. The trajectory of the pandemic in our continent remains unknown and is a major challenge for objective consideration.

Under the above circumstances witnessed over the past few months regionally and globally, it has become a necessity that the fight to contain and eliminate the pandemic and save lives remains the priority of priorities in the national human rights agenda. In the face of these, many countries as well as Eritrea, introduced severe preventative measures, including lockdowns, suspension of domestic travel and closure of international borders.

The GOE has implemented, prior to and after the onset of the disease, a raft of preventive measures with increasing intensity in response to the situation on the ground.  Accordingly, the High-Level Government Task Force on COVID-19 mobilized, coordinated and organized national capacity which enabled Eritrea to curb the spread of the disease. Similar structures are also functioning up to the community level.  The measures include the “stay at home” policy that is gradually and carefully easing but still in force. The population complied with the measures without the need to employ enforcement mechanisms. The strategy also incorporates active tracing and quarantining of immediate contacts of those diagnosed positive for COVID-19.

Eritrea registered its first COVID-19 case on 21 March 2020. Initially, the number reached 39, the overwhelming majority being persons who flew into Eritrea and were put under compulsory quarantine. Thanks to the outstanding dedication and professionalism of the health workers and stakeholders, all the patients recovered and were discharged from the hospitals.

The short respite was interrupted with detection of positive cases in Eritreans who returned to the country irregularly from neighboring countries and were kept in mandatory quarantine in several quarantine posts. To date overall 251 cases have been detected, 155 of whom have fully recovered and discharged. There has been no fatality associated with the disease.

While a comprehensive assessment of the experience in fighting the pandemic is to be made in the future, the following values and factors that date to the experience of the national liberation struggle and consolidated during the nation building process are worth mentioning:

•    an integrated social sector strategy that laid the basis for human dignity, betterment of life and development through integrated securities in food, health, water, environment and education
•     an effective public health system established up to the community level
•     high level of mobilization, organization and creation of capacity that ensures responsible participation by the people both as beneficiaries and participants
•    Pragmatic government dedication and approach to national interest and the people

Mr. Chairman,

In the above context, the Government’s approach and preliminary road-map for prevention and emergency preparedness was outlined by President Isaias Afwerki during his address to the nation on the occasion of the 29th Independence Anniversary and includes the following:-

1.    Consolidate and enhance long-term capabilities and strategies of prevention;
2.    Develop a mechanism for testing that initially starts with a sample and base-line data, to be extended to cover all citizens inside the country as well as abroad and that will include periodic monitoring and tracking;
3.    Enforcing strict control on movement of people  (authorized or irregular) to and from the country;
4.    Upgrade qualitatively and expand spatially Eritrea’s research institutions and laboratories;
5.    Strengthen the organizational structure, outreach and equipment of the Health Services;
6.    Develop effective and professional human capital above and beyond other factors;
7.    Upgrade Eritrea’s capabilities in the manufacturing of drugs, medical equipment and facilities;
8.    To foster and enhance technical cooperation with various foreign institutions and experts

Mr. Chairman,

Eritrea’s effective response to the pandemic was realized due to the monumental participation and contribution by all sections of the Eritrean society, residing in the country and outside.  They demonstrated their age-old culture of solidarity and burden sharing by contributing millions of dollars to beef up Government’s preventive capacity. Monetary and in-kind contributions to support vulnerable sections of the society continue to flow over the past five months.
While taking the lock-down measures, the Government ensured the unhindered continuation of major developmental projects, the manufacturing sector, agriculture and food production, trucking, mining, and maintaining the safety and security of the country. Moreover, Eritrea has sustained the provision and utilization of essential health services, with no or little reductions in antenatal care, health facility delivery, and immunization etc. during the past months of the pandemic. As of last week, 11th grade and tertiary level students have resumed their studies under strict physical-distancing and sanitary conditions.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite the burdens of the pandemic, countries of the region are consolidating the new dynamics of regional peace, security and development and significant progress has been achieved so far in the short period of time.  Moreover, cognizant of the cross-boundary effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has coupled with the challenges of the prevailing locust invasion in the East Africa region, the Eritrean Government is closely working with neighboring countries to address the challenge.

I wish to conclude my statement by reiterating Eritrea’s commitment to strengthen constructive engagement and cooperation with the ACHPR.

Thank you!