Vaccine disparities tops agenda as African leaders address UN
The inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution is one of the main topics addressed as African leaders, whose populations have little to no access to the life-saving jabs, took the podium to speak at the ongoing United Nations General Assembly.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa pointed to vaccines as “the greatest defense that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic”.
“It is, therefore, a great concern that the global community has not sustained the principles of solidarity and cooperation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.
“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1 percent has gone to low-income countries.”
Threatening to roll back gains
Making her maiden appearance at the UN General Assembly, Tanzania's first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, took the occasion to emphasize the need for the world to work together in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As the first female president in the history of my country, the burden of expectation to deliver gender equality is heavier on my shoulder," Suluhu Hassan said, warning that COVID-19 is threatening "to roll back the gains that we have made."
For his part, Namibian President Hage Geingob slammed what he called “vaccine apartheid”, saying it was a pity that while people in some countries were at the stage of receiving booster jabs, people in other countries had yet to receive their first dose.
The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Israeli regime are among those that have begun administering boosters or announced plans to do so.
Shocking to see disparity
Angola’s President Joao Lourenco, meanwhile, said it was “shocking to see the disparity between some nations and others with respect to availability of vaccines”.
“These disparities allow for third doses to be given, in some cases, while, in other cases, as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose,” Lourenço said.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa called on the international community to exercise “enhanced multilateralism and a unity of purpose’ in vaccine distribution.
Vaccine nationalism self-defeating
“The hording and inequitable distribution with the resultant uneven vaccination patterns across the globe is not acceptable,” he said in a pre-recorded address.
“Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and contrary to the mantra that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” added Mnangagwa.
Fresh from his inauguration a month ago, Zambia's President Hakainde Hichilema showered praises on his country's electoral process. He said Zambia had proven once again that "the outcome of an election is determined by those who vote and not those who count the votes."
The former opposition leader defeated President Edgar Lungu by a landslide in the August elections.
"We were able to achieve this political transformation even at the time when Zambia was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and in the midst of deep sorrow following the passing on of our founding father and first republican president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda," Hichilema said.
Equitable global access to vaccines must be at the core of efforts to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the UN General Assembly.
“To rebuild successfully requires a worldwide response in confidence and investment to enable production and consumption to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels,” he said in a pre-recorded message.
“The surest way to building that confidence is by making vaccines available to the world, in an equitable and accessible manner.”
However, he said the current “asymmetry” in vaccine supply “reflects a multilateral system that is in urgent need of repair.”
Pandemic exposed inequalities
Despite the heavy impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Somalia has continued on the path to economic reform, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said in a pre-recorded speech to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.
Yet, the pandemic has exposed frightening inequalities in the world, and the different rate of response has highlighted the vast gap between developed and developing countries.
“It is fundamental to recognize that responding to COVID-19 requires renewed commitment to vaccinations for all,” he stated.
"Human safety is the cornerstone of any sustainable recovery from this disastrous health pandemic.”