The following letter was sent to the Western Cape MEC for Health by the People’s Health Movement South Africa
Letter For Recognition of Health Committees During COVID-19
We write to you to urge you to use the COVID-19 regulations to recognise the health committees in the Cape Metro doing important preventive work to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 epidemic. We are aware that HC members across the Metro have been hard at work, educating communities, assisting with isolation and quarantine, de-escalating potential community conflict when cases of infection have been noted and encouraging handwashing and sanitising in communities. We have seen this work in Khayelitsha and Klipfontein, for example, where there are strong health committees operating, rooted in local community structures.
As the epidemic grows, which it will, health committees can play a key role in critical tasks needed to address the epidemic – supporting contact tracing, ensuring physical distancing in public spaces where people have to gather (shopping malls, clinics, queues for payouts), protecting high risk individuals and raising public awareness through their education programmes. We need to empower communities to be active partners who are informed and act with understanding of the disease and its spread if we are to overcome the epidemic. We need partnerships with communities now.
But thus far, Health Committees, which are mandated by law, have not been able to fulfil these roles because they are not recognised in the Western Cape. Members of Health Committees are activists in their communities who have the respect of local organisations and community members and could help the department to achieve its objectives in addressing COVID-19 as well as the broader mandate of health system responsiveness. They have a long history of health activism. Many have been trained in primary health care, in human rights and what the district health system should deliver. They are agents of change. They are resources and assets to the health system.
We therefore call on you to fast track the recognition of Health Committees so that they can assist the Department respond effectively to COVID-19. You need Health Committees to be the voice of communities and the vehicle for the Health System to reach into communities with clear messaging.
We look forward to your positive response to this appeal because of your public commitment to the health of the people of the Western Cape.
This letter is endorsed by Gugulethu Health Forum and Khayelitsha Health Forum
The letter was sent on 18 May 2020 and was acknowledged received by the office of the MEC on 19 May 2020.