Canada's Global COVID-19 Response
The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts across the globe, especially impacting the world’s poor and marginalized. Organizations like UNICEF are working tirelessly on COVID-19 response efforts to protect children in the face of a global pandemic, but the responsibility extends far beyond international organizations to support the world’s poor. In particular, Canada’s global COVID-19 response looks to support people in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.

The Pandemic’s Impacts

COVID-19 has changed the world in more ways than one. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 6.8 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide as of February 17, 2023. According to the Brookings Institution, the COVID-19 recession is “the deepest since the end of World War II.” The International Monetary Fund’s 2021 report showed a 7% loss in the global economy in 2020 alone, with nearly every country showing a decline, particularly the poorest countries.

While more than 50% of the school-aged children in developing countries faced learning poverty (the inability to read and comprehend a basic text by age 10) before the pandemic, disruptions in education due to the pandemic and associated lockdowns may have raised this rate to as much as 70%. Some students did not return to formal school at all after these disruptions.

Needless to say, the impacts of COVID-19 extend far beyond health outcomes and disproportionately impact the world’s poor.

A Strong Start to 2023

In the face of a threat like COVID-19 that requires a global response, Canada has kicked off 2023 with an announcement of a $70 million CAD contribution to UNICEF, bringing its total contribution to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Humanitarian Action for Children appeal to CAD $255 million. The ACT-A Humanitarian Action for Children appeal looks to support disadvantaged populations with COVID-19 tools and resources amid the pandemic. Canada was one of the earliest supporters of the effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19-related health resources.

Canada’s global COVID-19 response also includes an ongoing investment with UNICEF called the Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity (CanGIVE), which was announced in June 2022 and allows UNICEF to increase the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen health systems in 11 under-resourced developing countries. Not only will Canada’s contributions increase vaccine accessibility, administration/distribution and adoption but these funds will also support gender-sensitive health care efforts.

Additionally, the Government of Canada has taken a special interest in the rights and needs of women and girls, recognizing that the pandemic has magnified existing inequalities for impoverished/marginalized women. Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, launched in 2017, emphasizes supporting the poorest and most marginalized and ensuring “education, health, nutrition and sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Over the past three years, starting in February 2020, Canada’s international contributions to COVID-19 response efforts have surpassed $3 billion.

Canada’s Record of Support

  • In April 2020, Canada supported the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust through a $1 billion loan.
  • Since May 2020, Canada has provided temporary debt service relief to impoverished countries as part of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).
  • Canada allocated $3.7 billion of its International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights to assist struggling countries.
  • On September 21, 2022, Canada made a $1.21 billion allocation to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria in order to reignite efforts to fight these diseases.
  • During the G20 Leaders’ Summit in 2022, Canada allocated $50 million to the Pandemic Fund to “address the significant financing gaps on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR).”
  • Canada committed to donating 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine both to countries directly and to COVAX, a facility that “aims to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.”
  • The country created the “Give a Vax” matching fund through which the government matched every dollar of COVID-19 donations that Canadians made through UNICEF Canada.

Canada’s global COVID-19 response stands as an example of the global duty to support those in poverty, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic but until poverty and its outcomes dissolve. These efforts that the government of Canada has undertaken extend toward poverty, health access, gender rights and more.

– Mahak Kumari
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Yemen
Since 2014, a multilateral civil war that has brought about a near-total socio-economic collapse has engulfed Yemen. The country has faced widespread famines due to the lack of necessary infrastructure and socio-political decay. In the absence of proper access to water, sanitation, hygiene services and food, millions have either died or faced issues like displacement. Without aid, the famine in Yemen could evolve into the worst in 100 years. Fortunately, USAID programs in Yemen have targeted the most pressing issues to combat the spread of disease and fund activities that promote stable governance.

Effects of the War

The problems in Yemen have led to approximately 150,000 deaths from the war alone, with additional deaths due to famine and inadequate access to basic necessities. Predictions have determined that by 2030, total deaths could reach 1.3 million. Overall, approximately 23.4 million people — including 13 million children — are in need of assistance. Among these are 17.8 million people who lack access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services.

In 2022, the U.S. pledged $431 million to Yemen in humanitarian assistance – bringing the total U.S. contribution to Yemen to $1 billion. A large portion of this contribution aims to promote governmental stability, which is essential to all Yemeni citizens’ long-term prosperity.


Although armed conflict and access to food and water are the most discussed issues, a related problem is the ease of transmission of diseases among the most vulnerable within Yemen. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened public health concerns. While the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Program (COVAX) committed 4.2 million vaccine doses to Yemen, as of August 2022, less than 3% of the population received two doses.

Fortunately, there has been some level of intervention. USAID programs in Yemen have provided humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Yemenis through the department of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace, which focuses on providing food assistance, medical treatment, support for children, emergency services for women, hygiene kits and water treatment supplies. Most of this assistance aims to limit the spread of disease and combat the problem posed by famine.

Laying Sturdier Foundations: Helping Yemen, Help Itself

Fundamentally, although humanitarian assistance in dollars and additional food and water is of the utmost importance to prevent the famine and death total from escalating, it will not bring about tangible and necessary forms of change required to help the people of Yemen in the long term. Unless Yemen achieves absolute institutional and governmental level stability, thousands, if not millions, of Yemenis will perish. As a result, USAID programs in Yemen have taken more proactive measures to help Yemen through developmental aid. Such activities aim to not only help those in need but “strengthen the ability of Yemeni institutions to meet citizens’ needs and build a stronger foundation for durable peace and prosperity,” USAID reported on its website.

– Christopher Maddocks
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccines to Madagascar
Madagascar, like much of the world, has dealt with disinformation, confusion, disrupted supply chains and health crises from the pandemic. Additionally,
like much of the developing world, Madagascar remains largely unvaccinated. In fact, the country has administered only enough doses to vaccinate between 4-5% of the population. However, international organizations are working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar.

An Inside Voice

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Pierre Ranjakamanana, a 21-year-old student from Antananarivo, stated that the pandemic “badly affected the country in many ways, especially people from poor backgrounds.” The government-imposed lockdowns and curfew impacted Antananarivo’s many independent vendors, who often rely on daily income to make ends meet. Ranjakamanana recalled that “people were desperate due to the fact that they had to stay at home for two weeks.”

“All of us were panicking because we heard on the news that COVID-19 had killed many people in China. Then, we started thinking of ways not to get the virus, so we drank hot water tea with ginger and lemon in it, washed our hands every single time, and decided not to go outside.” He also remembered that while some took the virus very seriously, others “did not really believe in the virus because they believed that COVID-19 is like a normal disease like headache, fever and all that, so there is no point in panicking.”

Debunking the “Tea”

One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was overcoming misinformation and acquiring COVID-19 vaccines for Madagascar. Madagascar’s President Rajoelina has promoted an herbal tea that the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research developed as a COVID-19 cure. Called “Covid-Organics,” it is based on the artemisia plant, an important source of anti-malarial drugs. However, there is no evidence that tea has any effect on COVID-19. Still, the country has shipped thousands of doses to different countries, tried to develop an injectable version, and distributed the tea to schools, threatening students with expulsion if they did not drink it.

Efforts to Vaccinate Madagascar

Thankfully, international organizations are distributing vaccines and medical equipment to Madagascar. COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) are organizations that acquire, organize and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world and Africa, respectively. The U.S. State Department has given 1.7 million doses to these organizations, 74% of Madagascar’s total so far.

In 2021, the World Bank gave $100 million to Madagascar to help the country acquire and distribute more vaccines. If implemented smoothly, the initiative should vaccinate about 5.6 million people, as well as support the infrastructure that will continue to vaccinate the population. Some COVID-19 vaccines must be kept on ice, which vastly increases the logistics of distribution.

UNICEF is also working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar, supporting the government’s goal of vaccinating 9 million people before the end of 2022. UNICEF’s main work is buying vaccines and supporting and setting up clinics and distribution centers.

Though very little of the Malagasy population has received vaccines, it is encouraging to see the country overcoming previous hurdles in fighting the disease and finally gaining access to precious vaccines. 

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Palestine
There is no escaping the fact that the West Bank has significant indicators of improved living conditions and infrastructure. Roads that were once rough dirt trails have been smoothed out over the past three decades. Standard childhood vaccination rates have reached nearly 100%. Boys and girls are attending school and reading at record levels.

Since the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s, a treaty that was meant to deliver peace and a Palestinian state, significant sums of foreign aid to Palestine made possible many of these changes: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that between 1994 and 2020, funding to the Palestinians totaled more than $40 billion. 

Poverty-Affected Citizens

Due to the embargo on the Gaza Strip since 2007, which has caused a resurgence of hostilities and political divides, the Palestinian economy has suffered. A total of 2.1 million Palestinians—out of a total population of 5.3 million—need humanitarian aid. Parallelly, 80% of Gaza’s populace is aid-dependent.

A cycle of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity has mired people, which the rise in food and gasoline prices as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated. In the West Bank, where more than 60% of the land is under Israeli control and home to East Jerusalem, Area C and H2, 800,000 Palestinians require greater access to basic amenities like electricity, water and health care yet there is still little prospect for education or economic opportunity.

Individual States

Between 1994 and 2020, Germany, France, Norway, the U.K. and Japan provided more than 20% of all foreign aid to Palestine. Along with their contributions to UNRWA, Germany and other European nations were anticipated to invest up to €80 million ($70 million) in water projects in Gaza in 2021.

The European Union

In 2021, the European Commission rapidly redirected €100,000 from current World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives to address the first emergency health requirements in reaction to the violence raging throughout Palestine and the high number of civilian deaths. The Palestinian Authority launched the COVID-19 immunization program on March 21, 2021, following the receipt of vaccinations from the COVAX facility.

With more than €2.2 billion, the EU and its member states are one of the largest funders of COVAX. Since 2000, the European Union has contributed more than €818 million in humanitarian aid to support the Palestinian people with their most basic needs.

The United Nations

U.N. organizations spent nearly $4.5 billion, including $600 million in 2020 alone, in Gaza between 2014 and 2020. Three-quarters of Gaza’s population are Palestinian refugees, who receive more than 80% of that funding through the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA, which also offers food assistance and health services, runs schools for some 280,000 students in Gaza.

The World Bank

The World Bank granted a $30 million Development Policy Grant for the Palestinian Territories to assist reforms in the areas of inclusiveness, transparency and the green economy on July 7, 2022. Additionally, the World Bank will give $7 million to Gaza’s most vulnerable populations.

While the Gaza Emergency Support for Social Services Project offers access to a variety of social services, short-term funding for services, and online work possibilities, 80% of recipients of a comparable intervention under the Gaza Emergency Cash for Work and Self-Employment Support fund contracts worth more than $500,000, demonstrating the effectiveness of this modality in fostering employment prospects for adolescents and women in particular.

The Arab Nations

Between 1994 and 2020, five Arab nations gave the Palestinians the majority of the $8.5 billion in Arab funding. Their abundance in oil and gas plays a crucial role in maintaining the welfare of Palestinians, which also increases their capacity to have an influence on the Palestinian cause. Saudi Arabia received $4 billion in donations during this time, followed by the UAE ($2.1 billion), Algeria ($908 million), Qatar ($766 million) and Kuwait ($758 million) as the top five donors.

Since 2012, Qatar has given Gaza $1.3 billion in aid for infrastructure, health care and agriculture. This includes the $360 million allocated in January for 2021 and the additional $500 million pledged in May for post-war rehabilitation. The money from Qatar also helps pay the wages of the Hamas leadership and supports needy families. According to the Palestinian Authority, $1.7 billion will go to Gaza, with it primarily going toward pay for the tens of thousands of government officials who had to leave their jobs in 2007 when Hamas assumed power.


Foreign aid to Palestinians came in a variety of forms and sizes, for a variety of reasons. These included crisis relief, development projects, budget support, donations to grassroots groups, loans and technical help. Regardless of the aims or types of help that Palestinians have received over the past 20 years, this aid has had a substantial impact on the country’s political, social and economic landscape.

Although there have been substantial socioeconomic improvements, more foreign aid in Palestine is necessary to promote the establishment of institutions necessary for a two-state solution and to fulfill Palestinian aspirations for their economy to be on the road to sustainable growth.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

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.


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.


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