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covid-19s-impact-on-uganda-and-what-other-countries-are-doing-about-it
With more than 126,000 cumulative cases overall, the coronavirus is spreading fast through Uganda. As a result, the East African country is exhausting its health and safety resources, impacting the livelihood of its people. However, hope may be on the horizon thanks to the U.S. embassy. One of its newest missions invites a roster of vendors to supply high-quality medical equipment to Kampala, the Ugandan capital, as a means of alleviating COVID-19’s impact on Uganda.

The Way COVID-19 Intensified Poverty in Uganda

An international psychogeriatric study interviewed dozens of older Ugandan adults in an effort to capture their post-COVID-19 struggles. Its analysis describes five overarching themes: economic impacts, lack of access to basic necessities, impact on health care utilization, social impacts and violent reinforcement of public health restrictions.

During the pandemic’s first eight weeks, 1.9 million Ugandans fell into poverty, increasing that rate by nearly 16%. Some would resort to self-started businesses in times of economic hardship, but this is no longer an option for many Ugandans due to heavy health restrictions.

“I used to work for myself,” one 82-year-old Ugandan told researchers backed by the University of Liverpool and the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast in December 2020.

“I could eat and drink because I used to make roasted g-nuts and I sell them in this area. But when (the coronavirus) came, there is no moving. People have no money.”

An estimated 60% of informal business owners lost their livelihoods in the first eight weeks of the pandemic, all while the overall unemployment rate in Uganda increased from 1.8% in 2019 to 2.4% in 2020.

The inability of older Ugandans to commute or work because of the heavy health regulations and curfews is pushing younger generations to stay home and take care of their elders. Many of the older adults participating in the Liverpool study stated they were no longer able to pay their grandchildren’s school fees.

Some 15 million Ugandan learners — and 600,000 refugee learners — are currently out of school, according to the country’s education ministry. Since learning serves as a ticket out of poverty for many Ugandan youth, poor access to that and health care have resulted in children possibly lacking vital elements to construct any sort of livable circumstance.

A Struggling Health Care System

Uganda has a dozen post-graduate medical colleges and 29 nursing schools. Even so, there remains a shortage of health care workers and tools.

One of COVID-19’s impacts on Uganda is that it is experiencing an influx of patients. As a result, Ugandan doctors have been turning to Indian laboratories, sending patients abroad and violating health and travel restrictions. Ugandan health experts assert that poor government investments in health care are the reason for hospital inadequacies. For example, the medical sector represented only 5% of national spending in Uganda during the first full fiscal year of the pandemic compared with about 8% the year before. That decrease is due to a 90% decline in on-budget external financing for health care—from $332 million to just under $28 million.

The deadly mix of COVID-19 and economic instability has left an impact via a “domino effect” of multiple large-scale problems. Wealthier countries with greater ability to mitigate the virus can salvage key economic sectors like income, transportation and other aspects of poverty. Thus, a crucial step in relieving the medley of issues Uganda is experiencing may be to address the root of it all — the coronavirus. This could lead to the lifting of public health restrictions, allowing businesses to recover. The first step in this direction could involve making health care more accessible.

New Tools for Ugandan Health Care

The embassy issued equipment and supply requests at the beginning of November 2021 to alleviate COVID-19’s impact on Uganda, allowing U.S. companies to bid on and deliver easy-to-use, cutting-edge items ranging from integrated wall systems — that include vital equipment like blood pressure cuffs, devices that check ears and thermometers — to laryngoscopes, which can examine a patient’s larynx. Just days after these requests, Uganda mission director Richard Nelson kickstarted the process by donating more than $2 million worth of safety necessities.

Another useful procurement is COVAX, a global initiative working to supply vaccines. COVAX raised more than $2 billion, ultimately distributing some 700 million vaccine doses worldwide. However, Uganda only administered eight vaccines shots for every 100 people as of April 2021. With COVAX, Uganda is guaranteed 3 million new doses by spring, already collecting some 196,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in October 2021.

However, this is not enough to ensure herd immunity — what public health experts say could be necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus overall. To seal such gaps, 49 countries and 51 organizations are donating to COVAX, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledging more than $200 million. TikTok, Google and the Coca-Cola Co. are some of the other significant names making donations. A German business delegation that H.E. Matthias Schauer led said it was directly donating 5.5 million new Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses in early November 2021.

COVID-19 has deeply impacted Ugandan businesses and stripped the livelihoods of young and old alike. However, the U.S. is helping reduce COVID-19’s impact on Uganda through a foreign aid program, especially as the pandemic’s mortality rate continues to grow.

Fidelia Gavrilenko
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in Qatar
Located on the waters of the Persian Gulf, Qatar has an estimated COVID-19 vaccination rate of about 87%, administering more than 4.9 million doses to its people. It is a population percentage much higher than a number of other countries, including the United States, where just 59% of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated.

Statistics

Qatar has fewer than 2.5 million inhabitants, more comparable to U.S. states like New Mexico or Kansas. Additionally, it seems that a higher vaccination rate has made a difference when it comes to the Middle Eastern country’s efforts to fight COVID-19. Cases are currently at around 8% of what Qatar had during its time of peak infections, dating back to May 2020 when there were a reported 2,300 new infections each day.

According to Qatar’s government communications office, the country has reported some 150 new coronavirus cases by late November 2021, with more than 100 of those afflicted ultimately recovering. Since the start of the pandemic, Qatar has reported a total of 242,000 cases, with 239,000 recoveries and 611 deaths.

Qatar’s infection rate has climbed a bit in recent weeks. Additionally, while the country’s efforts are better than some of its neighbors, like Yemen — which had climbed to 11% of its peak before dropping again — Qatar is behind others, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, which reported between 1% and 2% of their respective peaks.

Bahrain, for example, averages a little more than 20 new infections per day in a recent week, with 87% of the country completely vaccinated. Saudi Arabia has more than 35 new infections each day with 69% fully vaccinated. Oman is averaging about seven new infections daily with a 59% vaccination rate.

The UAE reported just fewer than 80 new infections each day with a vaccination rate of more than 100%. Yet, Yemen has kept its numbers mostly under control — reporting a half-dozen new infections each day despite just a little more than 1% of its population being fully vaccinated.

Precautions

The U.S. has shared with those living or visiting Qatar the precautions the country has implemented since July 2020 to help limit the spread of the coronavirus there. That includes a little bit of technology — a smartphone app called Ehteraz used for contact tracing.

The country also limits the number of people allowed in cars, and how far athletes can travel to participate in sports. Of course, there are requirements for face masks and social distancing. Anyone not abiding by these rules faces stiff fines and potential jail time.

Qatar is currently in what it describes as its fourth phase of reopening, allowing some gatherings and small groups, and the elimination of masks in open public places, except where otherwise required — like in organized public events, schools and mosques.

Currently, the State Department has a travel heath advisory of Level 3 due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It advises anyone entering the country to be fully vaccinated.

Vaccine Distribution

Despite what appears to be high COVID-19 vaccination rates in Qatar, a study published in the National Library of Medicine in May 2021 suggests about 20% of the country’s population does not want the coronavirus vaccine. Surveys occurred in November 2020, before vaccines had received government approvals in many countries, including the United States, and when people were still building knowledge about the safety of the vaccine. The survey involved more than 7,800 adults.

Since then, Qatar has approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use and is available to everyone for free. However, the Qatari government recommends those at higher risk — such as the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, as well as health care workers — are first in line.

COVID-19’s Impact on Qatar’s Economy and People

The effects of COVID-19 have, for obvious reasons, reduced worldwide travel. This has led to OPEC reporting its lowest demand for oil in 30 years. The heaviest impacted sectors of Qatari society include manufacturing, real estate and transportation. Finance and construction also have experienced a moderate impact on Qatar’s expected gross domestic product, according to KPMG International.

How Qatar is Doing its Part

During the Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was at its worst, Qatar pledged the equivalent of $20 million in U.S. currency to GAVI. GAVI is an international vaccine organization that intends to help underserved countries in the world through the global COVAX initiative.

The money Qatar donated was double its earlier pledge of $10 million that lasted from 2016-2020. The money from 2016-2020 went directly to GAVI with no funding for COVAX. GAVI will distribute the money evenly with $10 million going to funding GAVI’s core programs from 2021-2025 and the other $10 million will help finance the COVAX AMC initiative10.

COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar is at remarkably high levels. The vaccine and other measures still in place in the country have dramatically reduced the number of active and new coronavirus cases in the country to a fraction of their peaks in the summer of 2020.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Unsplash

Vaccine Success in South Sudan
Gaining independence from the Republic of Sudan in 2011, South Sudan, “the world’s youngest nation,” now struggles with several economic, health and political challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By November 6, 2021, South Sudan reported 12,453 COVID-19 cases and 133 deaths. In particular, the country is facing several obstacles in distributing COVID-19 vaccine doses. Confronting these difficulties, South Sudanese community leaders and international organizations are stepping up to ensure vaccine success in South Sudan. These efforts showcase how a country can turn challenges and tragedies into victories and triumphs.

Logistical Challenges in Vaccine Distribution

As a land ravaged by decades of war, underdeveloped South Sudan has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates globally, with just 0.8% of the population receiving one dose and 0.3% receiving both doses by October 15, 2021. Lacking road infrastructure significantly contributes to the nation’s low vaccination rate as much of “the country remains largely inaccessible by road.”

A country roughly “the size of France,” the nation grapples with governmental neglect, political challenges and ethnic violence, which has led to a poor infrastructure system, among other issues. Lacking road infrastructure means South Sudan must transport its vaccines by air, a very costly endeavor that makes vaccine distribution efforts in South Sudan significantly more expensive than the cost of purchasing vaccines.

These barriers to vaccine distribution have led to monumental consequences. In May 2021, COVAX donated 132,000 COVID-19 doses to South Sudan. However, these doses “went to waste” as South Sudan had no choice but to return the doses. According to CARE, “the logistics did not exist to get the doses from the capital city Juba into the arms of the South Sudanese people” before the vaccine expiry dates. These challenges exacerbate the inequality in vaccine distribution between South Sudan and other developed countries, which are already vaccinating children while administering third booster shots. Coordinating the entire procedure and timing correctly are vital factors for vaccine success in South Sudan.

Addressing Distribution Bottlenecks

In light of these vast logistical problems, South Sudan aimed to turn this situation around by the time it received its next shipment of doses in July 2021. South Sudan raced to obtain “surge funding from CARE’s Fast & Fair Campaign, South Sudan’s Health Pool Fund, UNHCR and UNICEF.” Although South Sudan did not have enough time and resources to build road infrastructure, the nation used the funding for “investing, building staff capacity, addressing staff gaps” and enhancing vaccine confidence in communities.

This helped address some of the other “distribution bottlenecks” South Sudan experienced in May 2021. As a result, South Sudan was able to administer all 60,000 vaccines from the July shipment. However, the vaccine delivery process was significantly “more expensive than what COVAX currently budgets for.” COVAX “budgets $1.41 per dose for vaccine delivery, but South Sudan had to spend about $10 per dose to successfully deliver vaccines.” These are costs that South Sudan cannot bear alone. Therefore, international support to South Sudan is essential.

These efforts continue to boost vaccine success in South Sudan, and with dedicated community leaders, the country is on track to deliver more vaccines to its people. In October 2021, South Sudan began “a new vaccination campaign” following the delivery of roughly 60,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the United States. These single-dose vaccines eased the logistical burden of getting vaccines to citizens.

Aid to South Sudan

Because the vaccine distribution process in South Sudan is so costly, the nation may require “as much as $126 million for delivery alone.” These costs highlight the need for more grants and donations from international donors to ensure vaccine success in South Sudan. Despite South Sudan’s struggles in vaccination distribution, there is hope as organizations step in to support the nation. With continued support, South Sudan can dramatically increase its vaccination rate despite its standing as an underdeveloped nation.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

Effects of COVID-19 in Somalia
In November 2019, flooding that caused more than 500,000 people to lose their homes hit Somalia. These floods also created the perfect conditions for the largest locust invasion in 25 years. The destruction of crops by locusts led to widespread hunger in Somalia. Then, in April 2020, the media’s attention turned away from locust invasions as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic posed a far greater threat. With several compounded issues, the effects of COVID-19 in Somalia are harsh.

Healthcare in Somalia

According to the Global Health Security (GHS) Index, “Somalia ranks 194th out of 195” countries in terms of its health system capabilities. The GHS Index is “the first comprehensive” evaluation of the health security capabilities of “the 195 countries that make up the States Parties to the International Health Regulations.” The creators of the GHS Index, namely the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and The Economist Intelligence Unit, believe that the index will improve the international ability to handle “infectious disease outbreaks that can lead to international epidemics and pandemics.”

In numbers, Somalia employs only two healthcare workers per 100,000 citizens although the international standard is 25 healthcare workers per 100,000 people. For a nation of more than 15 million citizens, Somalia’s healthcare resources are minimal, with only 15 intensive care unit beds. As such, Somalia ranks “among the least prepared countries in the world to detect and report epidemics.”

Inadequate Testing and Reporting

Due to poor healthcare surveillance and reporting and as well as inadequate testing, it is difficult to gauge the full effects of COVID-19 in Somalia. As of May 2021, the country of 15 million people only administered 156,000 COVID-19 tests. Somalia’s Ministry of Health has officially reported more than 14,000 cases and more than 720 deaths as of May 2021. However, Mohamed Mohamud Ali Fuje, chief medical adviser of Somalia’s COVID-19 National Task Force tells The New Humanitarian that “the actual death toll is higher than the figures reported” because the country lacks documentation and adequate healthcare coverage.

In the predominantly Muslim nation of Somalia, most ill Somalians receive care within the confines of their homes. When a sickness leads to a fatality, the burial usually occurs “according to Islamic tradition within 24 hours.” These factors make tracing and reporting difficult. A United Nations healthcare worker employed in Kismayo, Somalia, told The New Humanitarian that even if a person with COVID-19 complications is able to get to a hospital, “there’s almost a zero chance of surviving” due to inadequate hospital equipment and a shortage of supplies and oxygen.

Vaccine Donations

The Federal Government of Somalia has worked together with the World Health Organization (WHO) to gather vaccines for Somalis ever since a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine became available. About 12 months after Somalia’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, vaccine donations started coming in.

On March 15, 2021, Somalia received its first donation of 300,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX Facility. Another delivery of 108,000 AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in Somalia on August 8, 2021, a donation from the Government of France through COVAX. Soon after, the United States gave 302,400 Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Somalia via COVAX. China also supported Somalia with a donation of 200,000 Sinopharm vaccines. As of September 12, 2021, Somalia administered 83% of the donated vaccines. Still, Somalia’s full vaccination rate stands at only 0.77% of the population at this point.

The Progress

Aside from vaccine donations, Somalia is also receiving aid from the Ministry of Health and Human Services along with WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to lessen the effects of COVID-19 in Somalia. In order to advance Somalia’s vaccine campaign, the organizations employed a number of strategies. In both Somaliland and Banadir, “special outreach teams of vaccinations” went to different areas. Trained community health workers educated Somalis on COVID-19 prevention measures and the advantages of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Health workers were also on the lookout for people with COVID-19 in order to provide them with sufficient aid and support.

Although Somalia faces “a triple threat” of flooding, an infestation of locusts and a global health pandemic, organizations and donors commit to assisting the nation. With continued support, the nation can successfully overcome the effects of COVID-19 in Somalia.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Equity
Vaccine equity is important when it comes to distributing COVID-19 vaccines within different parts of the world. Some global initiatives plan on reaching out to many communities by spreading the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, other factors exist that one should consider when it comes to the importance of promoting vaccine equity.

COVAX Initiative

The purpose of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, also known as COVAX, is to promote vaccine equity by increasing the availability of vaccines globally. COVAX’s main focus is on providing vaccines to citizens of many countries between now and the rest of 2021. This includes prioritizing countries that would benefit from receiving free vaccines. While working with organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, COVAX will receive enough support to ensure that more people will contribute to improving vaccine access.

Voices for Vaccines

The goal of one global challenge is to expand information regarding COVID-19 vaccines around the world. In collaboration with the Nursing Now Challenge Global Solutions Initiative, the Voices for Vaccines challenge encourages healthcare workers to spread awareness about COVID-19 vaccines and help improve vaccine equity. Anyone who applies will be able to share experiences they have had with other patients, along with sharing their personal knowledge. This challenge will also give workers the opportunity to have open discussions about the importance of promoting equal access to vaccines.

Intrepid Travel’s Vaccine Equity Campaign

One company recently came up with a plan to promote vaccine equity in different parts of the world. One of the things Intrepid Travel’s campaign focuses on is increasing the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. This will occur by informing people about COVID-19 vaccines and expanding access to improve access to vaccines. A donation from the Intrepid Foundation will also go towards supporting the cause. Some places such as Peru and Sri Lanka have provided transportation and hosted informational sessions to help increase people’s access to vaccines.

Other Ways to Increase Vaccine Equity

 One fact that one should consider when it comes to increasing vaccine equity is the creation process of COVID-19 vaccines. The process of tech transfer makes it more difficult for manufacturers to prepare vaccines due to supply, leading countries that need more vaccines to lose access to them. Some forms of technology can help increase the availability of needles and other important items. Companies choosing to work together will be helpful in promoting vaccine equity and saving lives.

The COVAX initiative plans to prioritize expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines and help improve access to vaccines. The Voices for Vaccines challenge is a way to encourage health care workers to emphasize the importance of receiving vaccinations. Intrepid Travel’s vaccine campaign focuses on eliminating barriers to vaccine access. Focusing on where vaccines go after manufacturers create them can have a positive impact on vaccine equity.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Vaccine Inequality and VariantsCOVID-19 has displayed the vast interdependence of the world in 2021. The pandemic disrupted global supply chains, highlighted the impact of migration and travel and prompted international coordination on an unprecedented scale. The distribution and administration of vaccines during the pandemic has varied greatly among continents and countries, with high-income countries in Europe and North America inoculating their populations far faster than middle and low-income countries in Africa and Asia. The rapidly spreading Delta variant revealed that vaccination is not just an issue for each independent country. Expanding vaccine access in lower-income countries with large, dense populations in Africa and Asia is necessary for wealthy and impoverished countries alike. COVID-19 discourse under-represents the relationship between vaccine inequality and variants and highlights the need to expand vaccine access to lower-income countries.

Vaccine Inequality in Africa, Asia and Latin America

Vaccine inequality is no more acute than in Africa. As of September 11, 2021, less than 4% of Africans received full doses of COVID-19 vaccines in comparison to more than half of the population in North America. The leading reason for this is drastic inequality in economic power and state capacity. Not only must countries be able to afford the vaccines but they must also have the infrastructure to administer the vaccines. This task is nearly impossible for countries such as Afghanistan, Mali and Myanmar while embroiled in domestic conflict.

Developing countries are mostly reliant on COVAX, the WHO’s initiative to distribute vaccines equitably, which is struggling to provide the number of vaccines it planned to. This is in part a result of wealthy nations ordering millions of vaccines directly from manufacturers, limiting the supply available to the WHO program before it was up and running. Assistance from and coordination with wealthier countries will be necessary in order to increase global vaccination levels before more variants develop.

Vaccine Inequality and Variants

The Delta variant has been the most important development in the global pandemic in recent months. Originating in India, Delta arose at a time when no one received vaccinations. Since then, it has spread around the world and prompted new lockdowns and countermeasures in countries on every continent. With less than 30% of the world fully vaccinated, there is good reason to believe that Delta will not be the last variant of COVID-19 that the world will see and the Lambda (originating in South Africa) and Mu (from Colombia) variants are already making way across borders.

As long as the majority of the world is unvaccinated, there is a worryingly high chance of the COVID-19 virus continuing to mutate. A sufficiently unique strain could potentially render the vaccine ineffective and reignite the pandemic. The Delta variant’s rapid spread across the globe proves that vaccinating just the domestic population will not bring about a certain end to the pandemic. As the most important factor in determining the rate of mutation is the rate of infection, an international agenda focusing on swiftly expanding vaccine access in order to mitigate the threat of future mutations would also best serve the United States.

US Leadership

The topic prompts the discussion of actions the U.S. is taking to rapidly increase global vaccination rates and whether there is room for more effort on the part of the U.S. In May 2021, the Biden administration voiced its support for abrogating the patents of vaccines in order to facilitate their production in lower-income countries and reduce vaccine inequality.

However, the United States does not have unilateral power to waive patents and the World Trade Organization is unlikely to advance this position. Furthermore, many contend that IP waivers are a poor solution to vaccine inequity. Manufacturing vaccines, especially mRNA vaccines, is a difficult and highly technical process with a small margin for error. Countries must also possess the infrastructure to produce vaccines quickly, safely and in large numbers.

It would be ideal if fixing global vaccine access was as simple as waiving patents, but unfortunately, the matter is more complicated. The United States can safeguard its own interest as well as the world’s interests by addressing the economic inequalities forming the root cause of vaccine inequality. Increasing COVAX funding is likely the most effective way in which wealthy countries can help address the global vaccine shortage while addressing the connection between vaccines and variants in the immediate term.

Donating Surplus Stock

Another way that the United States is helping to increase worldwide vaccination is by donating surplus vaccines. By early September 2021, the U.S. had already donated more than 114 million vaccines, making it the “largest donor of COVID-19 vaccines globally.” The U.S. can continue this trend as the country possesses more than 1 billion surplus vaccines, many of which are destined to expire this summer. Millions of people in Africa and Asia would jump at the opportunity of receiving a vaccination if only their country had the supply to meet the demand.

The most cost-effective way to end the global pandemic is to address the causal relationship between vaccine inequality and variants by providing vaccines to those who would be able to obtain them if not for their country’s economic incapacity. Global vaccination is a non-zero-sum game that demands the whole world’s involvement.

Will Pease
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Ethiopia 
As of August 2021, Ethiopia had 292,731 documented COVID-19 cases and 4,518 deaths in a population of more than 118 million. However, COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is far more complicatedAside from the clear health (medical and mental) implications of COVID-19, the pandemic affected other areas significantly, including poverty, nutrition and sanitation. The United Nation’s Ethiopia Assessment explored the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ethiopia.

Health and Nutrition

Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, 26% of Ethiopia’s population lives below the poverty line. In April 2021, there were studies on maternal and child nutrition and health during the early days of the pandemic compared to 2019. The studies showed a decline in these services in March and April 2020. The COVID-19 surge redirected nearly all resources and services. Therefore, there were few resources and services for other programs.

Healthcare workers, government and non-governmental organizations alike helped restore the services. A major factor in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on Ethiopia’s health and nutrition was an awareness campaign. The campaign aimed to teach COVID-19 prevention utilizing volunteers in the community, including frontline workers and university students.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

A major factor in winning the battle against COVID-19 is appropriate hygiene, such as handwashing. However, people in Ethiopia do not always have adequate access to water. This places further strain on the community. In Ethiopia, “60-80% of communicable diseases are attributed to limited access to safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene services.” For example, people in Ethiopia do not always wash their hands after using the latrine. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the many areas in which lower-income countries are at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping their citizens protected.

However, UNICEF partnered with the ONEWASH National Programme in 2013. This partnership established projects to guarantee access to a safely managed water supply, specifically to vulnerable groups like children and women. UNICEF and the ONEWASH National Programme aim to increase not only equitable and sustainable clean water supplies and sanitation services but also proper hygiene practices in rural and urban areas.

Government and Human Rights

The U.N. assessment on Ethiopia reported that the human rights situation in Ethiopia was improving. Due to government reforms and restructuring, opposition parties, women and different factions had a newfound voice in the government. However, human rights abuses remained. The pandemic exacerbated these abuses resulting in a state of emergency followed by delayed elections.

When the government postponed elections, the Tigray region chose to defy these orders and hold them anyway. This caused tension between the Tigray region and the federal government. Prime Minister Ahmed ordered military action against the Tigray region in retaliation for an attack on the federal government purportedly from the Tigray region. Additionally, in the western and southern parts of the Oromia region, “government counterinsurgency campaigns against armed rebel groups resulted in serious human rights and abuses against local communities by all sides.”

There are long-reaching implications of postponed elections. However, Ethiopia finally held elections in June 2021 with the ruling party winning a second term.

Looking Forward

COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is evolving as the vaccine rollout continues and the country implements information campaigns on COVID-19 prevention and hygiene and sanitation programs. The World Health Organization (WHO) through COVAX and the ACT accelerator shipped 38 million COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide, providing vaccines to more than 100 countries. The efforts to fight COVID-19 in Ethiopia are not in vain and continue to positively impact countries around the globe.

– Tiffany Pate
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Aid During COVID-19The year 2020’s sudden outbreak of COVID-19 caught many countries off guard. The U.S. is demonstrating its status as a global superpower by releasing economic, medical and other foreign aid during COVID-19.

5 Facts About US Foreign Aid During COVID-19

  1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has given more than $1.5 billion to different governments and organizations during the pandemic. The government split the money among various humanitarian, developmental and economic programs and organizations. The aid aims to help sustain governments at risk during the pandemic. It also intends to make the public more aware of COVID-19 and how to combat it. Additionally, the aid from the U.S. will go toward improving health education and hospitals, funding quick response teams capable of inhibiting COVID-19’s spread. The U.S. Government has also planned a $4 billion relief fund to aid high-risk countries through COVAX, a program that provides vaccines to low-income countries.
  2. The U.S. State Department works alongside other organizations. USAID and the CDC help the U.S. Government provide the necessary aid to countries at high risk. Congress created an emergency fund of $2.4 billion with the purpose of supporting both humanitarian programs and security and stabilization programs for countries in need. For example, foreign aid helps countries create safe and secure ways for citizens to receive necessary medical care during the pandemic.
  3. The U.S. gave the most foreign aid in 2020. In 2020, the U.S. gave around $35 billion in aid, with Germany close behind at just shy of $30 billion. The global amount of money that has gone toward COVID-19 relief measures is equal to about $16 trillion. U.S. foreign aid during COVID-19 is only around 1% of that. The majority of foreign aid during COVID-19 went toward short-term solutions, such as the aforementioned public health education programs and hospital care programs.
  4. U.S. foreign aid programs help combat more than just COVID-19. Recently, the House of Representatives passed an $11 billion bill to support countries in need, including through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  5. The U.S. has approved $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 aid. Of that $1.9 trillion, the U.S. has dedicated $11 billion to fight the global pandemic. That $11 billion includes $800 million for aid programs from the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as the CDC Global Fund. The remaining $10 billion will support global health, humanitarian aid and economic aid.

To conclude, the U.S. has provided more aid than any other nation to help countries combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This has allowed many at-risk countries to minimize or at least lessen the impact of the disease.

Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Programs in NigeriaNigeria is Africa’s largest country with a population of more than 200 million people. However, estimates place the number of fully vaccinated at around or less than 1% of the population. This is as the nation faces its third wave of COVID-19 infections. With the help of the U.S. government and COVID-19 programs in Nigeria, the country looks to successfully improve its vaccination rates and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 in Nigeria

Since Nigeria’s first known case of COVID-19 in February 2020, the country has seen a consistent spike in the total number of cases and deaths. A month after Nigeria’s first known case, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari implemented a 14-day lockdown in the country’s three major states: Lagos, Abuja and Ogun. During the lockdown, citizens underwent quarantine, travel to other states was postponed and businesses were temporarily closed.  The country then completed a gradual easing of its initial COVID-19 lockdown in phases. The first phase was initially conducted in the three major states for two weeks from May 4 to 17, but the government issued another two-week extension until June 1.

At this time, the country had a little more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases. The country then went into its second phase of easing regulations. This lasted four weeks from June 2 to June 29, during which Nigeria saw an increase of about 15,000 cases, bringing the total to more than 25,000 cases. After tallying fewer than 90,000 cases by the end of 2020, Nigeria saw a spike in COVID-19 cases in the spring of 2021 as it surpassed 160,000 cases in March.

Furthermore, Nigeria is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 cases. The country recorded its highest daily case total in the last six months when it tallied 790 cases on August 12. However, the Nigerian government is now not considering conducting another lockdown because a lockdown “stifles economic activity.” As of late September, the country has recorded more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases and 2,666 deaths.

Considering Solutions

Despite Nigeria’s low vaccination rates, hope to improve the situation remains. With donations from the U.S. government and COVID-19 programs in Nigeria, the country stands to improve its vaccination rates. In March 2021, COVAX made a significant donation to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. The delivery was the “third and largest COVID-19 vaccine donation to an African country” by the COVAX program. COVAX, which aims to guarantee equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for low-income countries, donated nearly 4 million vaccines to Nigeria.

Recently, on August 2, the United States delivered 4 million Moderna doses to Nigeria. More than a week later, the Nigerian government received 177,600 Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT). This donation is the first of 29.8 million vaccines that are being donated by the AVAT.

Looking Ahead

After only administering 3.9 million vaccines, Nigeria is expected to receive more than 40 million vaccines by the end of the year. With vaccine donations from the U.S. government and COVID-19 programs in Nigeria, the country can drastically improve its vaccine rates and work to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Scarcity in Africa
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in a vulnerable position for the past 18 months. Though vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have saved lives in the U.S., almost half of the United States still has not received vaccinations despite widespread access. As a result, cases continue to rise. Africa has seen more than 6 million COVID-19 cases and around 170,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office of Africa. Unlike the U.S., which struggles with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, vaccine scarcity in Africa is prevalent.

Vaccine Distribution in Africa

Vaccine scarcity in Africa continues to hamper African countries’ ability to vaccinate their populations. About four in five of the 38 million doses that African nations received as of June 2021 have gone to Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Tunisia and Senegal. As of June 2021, less than 1% of the continent’s population of 1.2 billion had been fully vaccinated.

“Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination catch-up, and the gap is widening,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti in an April press briefing. “Although progress has been made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line.”

AIDS as a Comorbidity

A historical parallel to Africa’s slow COVID-19 vaccine rate is the disproportionate prevalence of AIDS across the continent. The two diseases interact, with AIDS increasing the risk of serious infection or death from COVID-19.

About two in three people living with HIV come from sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS. Studies that occurred in England and South Africa show that HIV doubles the chance of dying from COVID-19.

Precautions to prevent COVID-19’s spread in Africa, such as lockdowns, also delayed HIV testing and treatment. Data from African and Asian nations showed a nearly 40% dip in testing and treatment during initial 2020 lockdowns compared to the same period in 2019.

Upcoming Donations from the US

As the U.S. reaches the 50% mark for domestic vaccination, it is beginning to donate more vaccines to other countries and help combat vaccine scarcity in Africa. For example, it is in the process of sending 25 million vaccine doses to Africa, according to State Department Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response and Health Security Gayle Smith’s statement at a digital press conference on July 21. The U.S. will donate an additional 500 million Pfizer doses, with many going to Africa. The Pfizer dose donations will occur through COVAX, an organization that allocates vaccines to participating countries monthly. COVAX will distribute the first batch of doses, totaling 60 million, in August 2021.

The U.S. State Department wants Africa to be able to produce its own vaccinations in the future. “We’re investing through our Development Finance Corporation right now in South Africa and Senegal in increased vaccine production and will be making other investments,” said Smith. “We believe that, for now and for the future, it’s important that Africa produce vaccines for its own consumptions rather than being dependent on having to import those in the majority of its medical requirements.”

Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr