Teams are intensifying their efforts across the globe to tackle COVID-19 and the latest variant: Omicron. They are also helping countries as they face multidimensional challenges like an increase in gender-based violence and political unrest.
Today, we highlight those coordinated efforts.
COVID-19, COVAX & OMICRON
Botswana (COVID-19, COVAX and Omicron)
6 December - With 19 cases of the Omicron variant detected in Botswana, the UN team led by Resident Coordinator Zia Choudhury is boosting its support to the government’s COVID-19 response, including strengthening diagnostics and treatment capacity through the provision of medical and protective equipment. The UN is also working with health authorities on community-based infection prevention and control measures. For its part, UNICEF is providing risk communication support on health and safety measures, including in tackling emerging variants, while boosting boost access to education and continuing to provide medical and nutrition services to protect vulnerable children. The UN is also continuing its support to the government as a self-financing country to procure COVID-19 vaccines via COVAX, while supporting the equitable distribution of vaccine doses. Of the 1,970,444 COVID-19 vaccines delivered thus far to Botswana, 704,970 doses arrived through COVAX, contributing to the country achieving the WHO target of vaccinating 40% of the population by December 2021. On 29 November, 1,053,361 people (75.7%) have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 950,973 people (68.4%) have been fully vaccinated.
Cabo Verde (COVAX)
9 December - And in Cabo Verde, Resident Coordinator Ana Patricia Graça reports that over 65,000 [Pfizer] vaccines donated by the US Government via COVAX were delivered, with nearly 140,000 more expected by the end of this month. This also enables the country to vaccinate young people who are older than 12. Our UN team has been supporting authorities since the onset of the pandemic with WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, and in partnership with the World Bank. Our team has delivered COVID-19 tests, vaccination equipment and increased training to boost vaccination teams. We also improved risk communication and community engagement. WHO is also now enhancing laboratory capacity to improve genomic sequencing by next month, which will help the country swiftly detect new variants, like Omicron. With support from the UN team and other development partners, Cabo Verde has already reached full vaccination of 65 per cent of the adult population18 years and older.
Latin America and the Caribbean (COVAX)
9 December - Our UN teams in Latin America and the Caribbean confirmed new batches of COVAX-backed vaccines arrived. Over 1.3 million [Sinovac] doses arrived in Ecuador, completing the total COVAX-planned allocation for the country this year, with over 3.2 million doses. And in Guyana, the United States donated over 42,000 [Pfizer] doses via COVAX . This brings the total number of vaccines received by the authorities through COVAX to over 180,000, now enabling the country’s emergency use for children between 12 to 18 years old. Our colleagues from PAHO tell us that over 72 million doses have been delivered so far to 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
10 December - Our UN team in Jamaica confirms the country has received nearly 100,000 [Pfizer] vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility to continue the country’s ongoing vaccination process. So far, the country has received over a million vaccines through COVAX alone. Our UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Garry Conille, is also working with authorities and other partners to boost vaccine confidence and increase the uptake of doses through science-backed messages and campaigns. PAHO recommended countries increase full vaccination coverage against COVID-19 while maintaining public health measures that limit transmission of the virus, regardless of the variant. Over 780,000 new COVID-19 infections and 11,000 deaths were reported in the region last week alone, yet just 55 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated. In some countries, including Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, coverage remains much lower.
15 December - We turn now to Nicaragua, where 134,400 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines arrived through the COVAX mechanism, to boost on-going vaccination campaigns. To date, the country has received, over 3 million doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Sinopharm vaccines through COVAX. In Venezuela, a third batch of COVID-19 vaccines also arrived through the COVAX mechanism consisting of 2,587,200 doses of Sinopharm vaccines. So far, 5,875,200 of the total 12,068,000 doses requested through COVAX have been received. In the country, PAHO/WHO continues to support national health authorities in the on-going COVID-19 response, providing epidemiological surveillance, training for health care personnel and boosting medical and laboratory capacity.
Malawi (COVID-19, COVAX and Omicron)
3 December - With the emergence the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the UN team in Malawi is intensifying its support for surveillance and adherence to preventative measures. While Omicron has not been confirmed in the country so far, UNICEF is providing training in COVID-19 genomic sequencing to laboratory scientists to identify COVID-19 variants and working with WHO and the Government to support the screening of travelers. UNICEF has also distributed 10 oxygen concentrators, four oxygen monitors, and four ventilators to hospitals, and is bringing 100 more oxygen concentrators this month to help hospitals manage critical COVID-19 patients while providing classroom tents to 40 schools across Malawi for 20,000 students. In line with the recently approved Malawi recovery plan (Socio-economic Response Plan or SERP), WFP continues providing insurance pay-outs for over 65,000 farmers following failed harvests in the last season. Malawi has received 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines via COVAX, and 1.4 million have been administered.
2 December - In Mozambique, as of 2 December, authorities confirmed two suspected cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. Our UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Myrta Kaulard, is beefing up support on the health and socio-economic fronts working with national authorities, private sector and civil society organizations. Following the recommendations from WHO, Mozambique is implementing specific actions in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant in the region. To tackle the wider impacts of the pandemic, 13 per cent of the UN team’s sustainable development programme funding has been redirected to bolster the COVID-19 response. Nearly 3 million people have received social protection and basic services, including food assistance, food supply protection, water and sanitation supplies, emergency cash transfer programmes and psychosocial support. Through the COVAX Facility, Mozambique has received over 5 million doses. That’s over 40 per cent out of a total of more than 12 million allocated to the country, with WHO and UNICEF playing a key role in the ongoing national vaccination efforts.
15 December - As Zambia continues to record more cases of the Omicron variant in the a fourth wave of infections, the UN team led by Resident Coordinator Coumba Mar Gadio continues to address the multiple impact of COVID-19. The UN team is working with the government on boosting contact tracing, border health security, laboratory and procurement capacities. WHO has supported genomic sequencing leading to the detection of Omicron in the country. Our support also includes the scaling up of the on-going COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with over 3.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines delivered to Zambia under COVAX Facility. A recent WHO-UNICEF surge mission looked at supporting the national strategy in boosting vaccine roll-out. The team is also engaging in risk communications support, including radio campaigns for community outreach.
Myanmar (Gender-based violence)
2 December - In Myanmar, UNFPA launched the first national standards supporting hotlines that address gender-based violence across the country, as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign. These standards define what providers should focus on to improve the quality services and mitigate practices that may cause unintended harm to survivors and service providers. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an uptick in tele-services and online support to survivors. Service providers also turned to remote options in response to public health restrictions related to COVID-19 when the military takeover took place in February. One hotline operator in the country flagged that women and girls with disabilities have been even more vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence. This effort in Myanmar was also supported by the Government of the United Kingdom.
Solomon Islands (Unrest)
3 December - Under the leadership of Resident Coordinator Sanaka Samarasinha, the UN team in the Solomon Islands stands ready to provide in-kind technical support to the Government on needs assessments and displacement, following more than a week of political unrest in the country, fueled by poverty, unemployment, and inter-island rivalries. Over 1,500 Asian migrants have reportedly been displaced due to the violence, which began in Honiara on 24 November. Some 56 buildings were burned and looted, resulting in the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. The Government estimates it will take at least 12 months for most of those businesses to recover. Subject to funding, IOM is ready to support with the provision of direct assistance to those displaced with food, non-food items and shelter. They are also prepared to provide technical support such as Displacement Tracking Matrix, Migrants in Countries in Crisis, and Camp Coordination and Camp Management. The UN team reiterates the Secretary-General’s concern over the unrest and his call for an immediate end to the violence and the protection of hard-won peacebuilding gains, while urging dialogue and peaceful means to address differences.