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News in Brief 9 November 2021

News in Brief 9 November 2021

This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.  

COVID-19 pandemic brings global syringe shortage into sharp focus

Efforts to boost COVID-19 vaccine production should be matched by access to the syringes needed to inject them - and there could even be a global shortage of needles for regular immunization campaigns next year - the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Based on a scenario where around seven billion people need two doses of coronavirus vaccine between now and 2023, the UN health agency said that a shortage of at least one billion syringes “could occur”, if manufacturing does not pick up.

Lisa Hedman, WHO Senior Advisor, from the Access to Medicines and Health Products division, warned that a generation of children might miss scheduled immunization jabs unless manufacturers find a way to make more single-use disposable syringes.

“When you think about the magnitude of the number of injections being given to respond to the pandemic, this is not a place where we can afford shortcuts, shortages or anything short of full safety for patients and healthcare staff,” the WHO expert said.

She told journalists in Geneva that more than 6.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines are being administered globally per year, which is nearly double the number of routine inoculations delivered annually:

“A shortage of syringes is unfortunately a real possibility and here’s some more numbers. That the global manufacturing capacity of around six billion a year for immunization syringes it’s pretty clear that a deficit in 2022 of over a billion could happen if we continue with business as usual.”

Ms. Hedman explained that reusing syringes even after they have been sterilized was not advised, as harmful bacteria remained present.

She also noted that syringes were particularly prone to transport delays because they took up 10 times the space of a vaccine.

Ethiopia: Future of Tigray and Horn of Africa ‘in grave uncertainty’ 

To Ethiopia now, where UN humanitarians repeated their call on Tuesday for unimpeded aid access to communities caught up in the year-long, escalating conflict in the north of the country.

Across the country some 20 million need humanitarian assistance, including seven million directly affected by the fighting in the north of the country, according to UN aid Office OCHA.

The development follows a warning from the UN’s political chief to the Security Council on Monday that there was “grave uncertainty” surrounding the future of Ethiopia – and for the stability of the wider Horn of Africa.

Speaking in New York, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, noted that the risk of Ethiopia “descending into widening civil war (was) only too real”.

In recent days, Tigrayan forces have advanced south towards Addis Ababa, in coordination with the Oromo Liberation Army, Ms. DiCarlo said. 

In Geneva, UN humanitarians OCHA confirmed that the UN’s top emergency relief official, Martin Griffiths, met Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and de facto authorities in Tigray at the weekend.

OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said that Mr. Griffiths had addressed challenges related the suspension of humanitarian flights, the availability of fuel, cash and supplies, bureaucratic obstacles and humanitarian personnel:

“In Tigray, he met our partners and engaged with de facto authorities on the need for access and protection of civilians for all areas under their control and respect for humanitarian principles. He also met with women affected by the conflict including survivors of sexual violence. Mr. Griffiths said that these women were desperately focused on daily survival, repeating their needs for basic support, such as food and medicine.” 

It is now three weeks since the last overland aid convoy reached Tigray, while 369 relief trucks remain held up in neighbouring Afar region, said OCHA’s

Mr. Laerke, who added that 100 trucks need to reach people in crisis every day.

Thousands flee conflict uptick in DR Congo 

At least 11,000 people have fled violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since last weekend, seeking shelter in neighbouring Uganda, the UN said on Tuesday.

In an alert, UNHCR noted that this was the largest refugee influx into Uganda in a single day, for more than a year, and that most of those who crossed the border were women and children. 

The development follows fighting between militia groups and national armed forces in North Kivu’s Rutshuru Territory.

Witnesses reported fighting in the villages of Binja, Kinyarugwe and Chanzu; they were among many who fled with their cooking utensils, sleeping mats,
clothing and livestock.

Although Uganda’s borders are closed to asylum-seekers because of COVID-19 restrictions, UNHCR commended the authorities for granting a humanitarian exception and allowing safe passage to people seeking safety.

But the UN agency expressed concerns that local capacity and services may soon be overwhelmed, adding that more resources are urgently needed to help the new arrivals. 

Daniel Johnson, UN News.  

  • COVID-19 pandemic brings global syringe shortage into sharp focus

  • Ethiopia: Future of Tigray and Horn of Africa ‘in grave uncertainty’ 

  • Thousands flee conflict uptick in DR Congo 

Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
Photo Credit
© UNICEF/Nyani Quarmyne