LESOTHO is set to benefit from a donation of Covid-19 vaccines to be procured by the African Union (AU) through a US$25 million donation by South African mobile communications giant, MTN.
The vaccines will be distributed to several African countries.
News of the donation was first announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in his televised address to his nation last week.
President Ramaphosa lauded MTN for leading the efforts in making the Covid-19 vaccines available on the African continent.
He said the donation had enabled the AU to procure seven million vaccines for distribution to South Africa’s neighbours including Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.
“Seven million vaccines have been secured from a donation by the African telecommunications firm MTN and those vaccines will be distributed to South Africa’s neighboring countries including Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
MTN subsequently issued a statement saying it had donated US$25 million “to support the African Union’s Covid-19 vaccination programme”.
“The donation will help secure up to seven million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for health workers across the continent, which will contribute to the vaccination initiative of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
President and chief executive officer of MTN Group, Ralph Tendai Mupita, said: “the devastating impact of Covid-19 has been unprecedented and profound.
“Public and private partnerships are needed if we are to succeed in the fight against the pandemic and restore social and economic norms for our continent and our communities.
“We believe ongoing collaborations with key stakeholders across sectors are essential as vaccines are deployed in all our markets, with communication tools, technology and digital services being vital support infrastructure for a successful mass vaccination programme.”
It is not clear when the vaccines will be available in Lesotho. Contacted for comment this weekend, the Health ministry’s Head of Family Health Services, ‘Makhoase Ranyali Otubanjo, said she was not in a position to comment on the MTN donation. Dr Otubanjo could not say when the vaccines would be availed to Lesotho.
Last month, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro announced that the government would procure M240 million worth of vaccines to fight the pandemic which had infected 9380 people and killed 183 by yesterday.
This in addition to the free vaccines Lesotho expects to receive from the COVAX facility (a fully subsidised initiative by the World Health Organisation to enable poor countries to get free vaccines) in April this year.
COVAX has committed to donating vaccines to cover only 20 percent of the populations of each of the 92 countries in the facility. These countries, including Lesotho, will therefore need to purchase extra vaccines to cover the remainder of their populations.