Updates from the field #37: Coming together to roll-out national vaccination efforts
COVID-19 continues to upend lives of communities across the world, undermining the Sustainable Development Goals.
During the Secretary-General's recent remarks to the Security Council, he stressed:
“At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community. We must ensure that everybody, everywhere, can be vaccinated as soon as possible.”
From deploying screening robots to procuring and delivering vaccines worldwide, UN country teams are tirelessly supporting local and national authorities in the fight against COVID-19.
In Bolivia, in an effort led by Resident Coordinator Susana Sottoli with the World Health Organization (WHO)/Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN team has been supporting the Government to ensure its participation in the COVAX facility. Bolivia expects to receive a shipment of nearly 1 million vaccine doses in the next few weeks. To make this happen, the UN team helped the country prepare its cold chain capacity, purchase vaccines and plan their safe distribution. This effort will target healthcare workers first, as well as the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
The team and authorities are also boosting communications efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while backing the UN’s “Verified” initiative to curb the spread of the so-called “infodemic.”
The UN team has so far repurposed US $31 million of its existing funding to address the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
In a country with a population of over 11 million, around 3 million children are currently affected by school closures, according to UNESCO figures, also available on the COVID-19 data portal.
Now turning to Eswatini, our UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Nathalie Ndongo-Seh, has been ramping up its support for the country’s response against COVID-19.
Eswatini has seen a surge of cases in recent months, with more than 16,000 confirmed cases, and more than 600 deaths. The UN team has contributed more than US $8 million to national efforts to respond and recover from the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
WHO has mobilized two teams of health experts and is also supporting efforts to procure and distribute vaccines.
For its part, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has provided 5,000 hygiene kits to people living with HIV to prevent their exposure to COVID-19. Meanwhile, UNICEF has helped create guidelines and trained 1,000 teachers ahead of schools reopening.
The UN team is supporting authorities to provide food for orphans and vulnerable children, as well households headed by children. So far 156 food-insecure households have received farming products as well as seedlings and fertilizers.
In Indonesia, the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator, Valerie Julliand, is supporting national efforts to vaccinate 80 per cent of Indonesia’s population in the next 13 months – that is more than 216 million people.
The UN team is working to prepare and include Indonesia in the COVAX facility. WHO is supporting the vaccine roll-out and has trained more than 23,000 health workers so far.
WHO has helped to finalize a vaccine introduction roadmap and technical guidelines. Vaccine safety surveillance has been strengthened to monitor and respond to any potential risks.
More than 780,000 healthcare workers have been safely vaccinated across the country so far.
Meanwhile, UNICEF is working with the Government to prepare and deploy the vaccine rollout. This includes procuring the vaccines through COVAX, also addressing forecasting and policy needs, vaccination microplanning, financing, quality, and strengthening cold chain capacity.
UNICEF is also boosting risk communication and community engagement for vaccine acceptance, with 66,000 health workers already reached via trainings and dialogue. The entity is also working on data and analytics for registration and monitoring of vaccine recipients, while ensuring continued routine immunization for children.
In Peru, the UN team there has helped the Government secure the country in the initial phase of the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX facility. Led by Resident coordinator Igor Garafulic and WHO/PAHO, the UN has worked with authorities to fulfill the COVAX requirements to receive and deploy the vaccines, targeting healthcare workers and other key vulnerable groups.
These requirements include a national vaccination plan, target vaccination groups and the purchase of equipment to preserve and ensure the efficacy of the vaccine. UNICEF also helped the Government to buy cold chain equipment. Peru is expected to receive an initial shipment with more than 1.7 million doses of vaccines in the next few weeks.
In Rwanda, the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Fodé Ndiaye, is supporting national efforts to tackle the pandemic – including with robots.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is working with authorities to deploy eight high-tech robots in the fight against COVID-19. Each of these robots can screen up to 150 people a minute to track fevers and other potential signs of COVID-19. The robots can also deliver food and medicine to patients.
Others use ultraviolet light to clean up and disinfect treatment centres and other places, which can swiftly limit the spread of the virus.
For their part, WHO, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) have deployed 50 staff members to support the national COVID-19 coordination centre in areas including laboratory oversight, case management, risk communication, counseling, and prevention.
From March to January of this year, the UN team has contributed more than US $22 million to the response, helping tackle health challenges as well as the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.