Vaccine bottlenecks from COVID lockdown leave children’s lives at stake
Help is needed urgently to distribute vaccines worldwide amid a dramatic drop in the quantity of lifesaving drugs available because of COVID-19 restrictions, UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Friday.
It has warned that lives “are at stake” owing to the dramatic decline in commercial flights and the limited number of charters.
Governments, the private sector, the airline industry, and others have been approached to free up freight space at an affordable cost “and to work with us to find ways around the transport disruptions we face”, said UNICEF spokesperson, Marixie Mercado:
“Compounding the challenge is the exorbitant cost of securing flights, with freight rates at 100 to 200 per cent above normal, and charter flights even more costly. Countries with limited resources will struggle to pay these higher prices, leaving children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and polio.”
Last year, UNICEF sourced more than 2.4 billion doses of vaccines for 100 countries, to reach around 45 per cent of the world’s under-fives.
Since late March, there has been a 70 to 80 per cent reduction in shipments.
Dozens of countries are at risk of running out of supplies including at least five that experienced measles outbreaks in 2019, the UN agency noted.
It has been working with manufacturers and partners, including the World Health Organization, the vaccine alliance GAVI, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to find solutions.
Refugee agency helpline overwhelmed as COVID-19 impacts hit
People forcibly displaced by conflict and violence are increasingly desperate as COVID-19 continues to make their already dire situation worse, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has said.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, UNHCR and partners have received more than 350,000 calls from refugees and internally displaced people since lockdowns and other public health measures came into force, in March.
The majority asked for urgent financial assistance to cover their basic needs, amid a reported increase in evictions or threats of evictions in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania and Tunisia.
There are currently more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and many are in need of urgent support, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said:
“In Lebanon, which faced an economic downturn prior to the pandemic, over half of the refugees surveyed by UNHCR in late April reported having lost livelihoods such as daily labour. Among the refugees consulted, 70 per cent reported that they had to skip meals. In other countries in the region, such as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, large number of refugees have also reported having lost their main source of income.”
IOM helps migrants caught up in truck tragedy, return home
To Ethiopia now, where UN migration agency IOM has helped survivors of a shocking lorry container tragedy to go home and pick up their lives once again.
It comes after the remains of 64 migrants from Ethiopia were found locked in a container at the back of a truck near Tete, Mozambique, after crossing over the Malawi-Mozambique border in late March.
In total, 11 young men have now returned to Ethiopia, thanks to the Governments of Ethiopia and Mozambique, assisted by IOM and the European Union.
Under the scheme, IOM will help the migrants return to their communities in Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ regional states.
Once home, the UN agency will give them psychosocial and economic support.
One survivor told IOM that he had “endured torture by smugglers” after likely paying smugglers between $2,500 to $6,000 to get to Southern Africa in search of work.
He described walking in forests for days with little food and water, but said that the worst part was the ride in the container, where 78 people were crammed into a space meant for no more than 20.
It was only by screaming for air and banging on the inside of the container that border police heard them.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.