LESOTHO’S fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has received a major boost from the European Union (EU).
This after the bloc gave UNICEF a €100 million grant to enable it to support mass vaccination programmes in the Kingdom and 11 other Sub-Saharan countries.
The other beneficiaries are Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
In a weekend statement, the EU said, “UNICEF has received a new grant from the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid to help roll out Covid-19 vaccination in 12 countries in Eastern, Southern, West and Central Africa.
“The 18-month joint programme will help ensure that as vaccines arrive, countries are supported and vaccines reach the whole population, including the most vulnerable. Support will be provided through, inter alia, training for health workers, shoring up logistics and building confidence in vaccine take up.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has been putting immense pressure on already-overburdened health systems in Eastern, Southern, West and Central Africa, despite concerted efforts by governments, supported by UNICEF and other partners. The impact on communities and children has been devastating. Children have been hit especially hard, with schools closed for months, millions forced into child labour or early marriage, and millions of other children thrown into extreme poverty. Vaccination is a key strategy in the global Covid-19 response. However, just 7 per cent of the African population had been fully vaccinated as of 6 December 2021.”
Commenting on the latest grant, Paraskevi Michou, Director General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection in the European Commission, said, “ever since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the EU, its member states and European financial institutions have come together as Team Europe, to provide support against the pandemic around the world.
“In addition to being a leading donor to the COVAX facility (to help developing countries), the EU is providing a total of €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa, in cooperation with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
“This will help ensure equitable access to vaccines for vulnerable people, including in conflict-affected or hard-to-access areas. It is also an indication of the strong cooperation between the European Commission, the Africa CDC, UN agencies and humanitarian partners on the ground, in our joint efforts to defeat the pandemic.”
This new EU humanitarian funding will enable UNICEF to achieve the following:
- enhance coordination and partnership with governments, Africa CDC, WHO and partners in planning and monitoring of Covid-19 vaccine roll-out;
- support delivery of vaccines to priority groups through increased health force capacity;
- increase logistics, cold chain systems and vaccine management;
- strengthen community engagement for vaccine acceptance and promote demand;
- provide timely and quality technical support and oversight.
UNICEF has expressed gratitude to the EU for the grant.
“UNICEF welcomes the EU’s support to ensure that populations in the 12 countries, including parents and priority groups such as health workers, teachers and social workers can be vaccinated against COVID-19. Protecting them is key to restore and improve services to children.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on communities and children in Africa, taking lives, affecting livelihoods and the ability of governments to provide essential services to children,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
Her comments were echoed by Mohamed Fall, the UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, who said, “as Covid-19 vaccines become more available in Africa, it is critical to make sure that countries have the necessary tools and resources to turn vaccines into vaccinations by accelerating roll outs while prioritizing the most vulnerable target populations. The EU’s support to UNICEF will help make this a reality”.