Maputo — Mozambican Health Minister Armindo Tiago on Friday warned that acts of discrimination undermine the efforts of the health authorities to fight against disease, and the latest example of this concerns people diagnosed as carrying the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
Tiago was speaking in Nampula city at the launch of a communication campaign to step up the prevention of Covid-19, and to eliminate stigma and discrimination against those affected by the disease.
He said it was crucial that religious and community leaders, neighbourhood secretaries, and heads of markets should take part in the campaign, since they are key partners for its implementation.
"Since the pandemic is going to be with us for a long time, our only option is to stick together, and that's why we are all here today", added Tiago.
Currently Covid-19 is in all 11 provinces, he said, and the epidemic is shifting to the phase of community transmission. About four weeks ago, Nampula city became the first part of the country where community transmission was noted, and it was soon followed by Pemba, capital of Cabo Delgado province. Now Maputo and the neighbouring city of Matola have been registering a substantial increase in cases, and in these two cities the transition to community transmission could be imminent.
On top of this sombre picture came instances of stigma and discrimination against people infected by the coronavirus. "These manifestly negative social phenomena not only harm the people infected and affected by the disease", said Tiago, "but they also endanger all the efforts of society to control and combat the Covid-19 pandemic".
"It s with sadness that we see situations in which individuals diagnosed with Covid-19 are suffering doubly from pain, because of the disease, and because of our acts of discrimination, when we have the responsibility to cherish them", stressed the Minister.
It was in order to eliminate this double burden facing people with Covid-19 that the government had decided to launch the campaign, under the slogan "It's in our hands", to fight against discrimination and stigma, and eventually contribute to better prevention of the disease.
"We also want the campaign to avoid the panic, rumours and unnecessary social alarm that are associated with the increase in the number of cases", said the Minister.
He noted that people suffering from other diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, also face stigma. "But we don't choose the disease, we merely fall ill", Tiago said.
"This campaign", he continued, "is intended to strengthen individual and collective responsibility in preventing Covid-19 and step up messages about mitigating its impact on the community, and avoiding overloading the health system, as well as preventing stigma, discrimination, domestic violence, and blaming people just because they're ill".