UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Forere at the UN Security Council’s open debate on ensuring equal access to COVID-19 vaccines in conflict and insecurity-affected contexts

NEW YORK, February 17, 2021 – “Excellencies. Friends. Secretary Raab – thank you for convening this debate. UNICEF appreciates the UK’s efforts to highlight the importance of equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“The only way out of this pandemic for any of us is to ensure that vaccination is available to all of us.

“We need to involve millions of people living or fleeing conflict and instability in this historic effort.

“Equal access to vaccines for all people, including those living in conflict, is essential. Not just as a matter of justice, but as the only way to end this pandemic for all. And to sow the seeds of care, hope and even peace. in countries that have seen too little.

“For UNICEF and our many humanitarian partners around the world, COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our responses, adding a new layer of complexity to some of the most difficult and dangerous operational environments anywhere.

“As this Council is well aware, the violent and protracted nature of today’s armed conflicts has shattered countries’ health systems … damaged or destroyed vital infrastructure such as water and sanitation … and prompted the flight of much-needed health workers.

“In this context, the delivery of the vaccine is hampered by the lack of funds for overall humanitarian support … and the lack of transport, cold chains and logistical infrastructure to support the introduction.

“We need to reach the same populations that routinely miss out on basic services – such as health, nutrition and basic immunization – with a vaccine that will not only potentially save their lives, but also help tackle the global pandemic.

“UNICEF is proud to support the WHO-led global response. We are also bringing our decades of experience and expertise to this massive task.

“We are working with our partners and governments to support the country’s readiness. With our strong presence on the ground, we are working with local and national authorities on preparations and strategies to reach all people, including those in hard-to-reach locations.

“Using existing immunization infrastructure, we are also working to reach people who are not normally targeted in our immunization programs – including healthcare professionals, the elderly and other high-risk groups.

“We are helping governments establish pre-registration systems and give priority to people who, like health workers, need to get vaccines first.

“We engage communities and build trust to beat misinformation.

“We train health workers to deliver the vaccine and help governments recruit and deploy more health workers where they need them most.

“We are advocating with local and national governments to use other proven health measures such as masks and physical removal.

“And now, through the COVAX Facility, we are working with Gavi, WHO and CEPI on the procurement and delivery of COVID vaccines in close collaboration with vaccine manufacturers, and suppliers of goods, logistics and warehousing.

“And we are doing this at a dramatically accelerated timeframe. Our goal is to procure two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year. This is on top of the two billion doses of other vaccines we typically procure each year on behalf of 100 countries.

“Through our many years of work in a humanitarian context, we are adapting, adapting and assessing the specific needs of each location.

“This means, for example, ensuring the availability of sufficient doses and syringes in each country and conducting inventories to ensure the existence of efficient cold chain systems.

“That means getting syringes and safety boxes.

“This means finding ways to ensure distribution and delivery in logistically difficult contexts such as South Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo – or in high-threat environments such as Yemen or Afghanistan.

“This means negotiating access to the population through multiple lines of control by non-state armed groups – areas that the ICRC estimates represent about 60 million people.

“This means ensuring that all sections of the population, including those routinely excluded from support, are covered by national vaccination plans – regardless of their legal, economic or political status. This includes refugees or migrants and those deprived of their liberty.

“And we have joined the global effort to provide vaccines as part of a humanitarian buffer that can be used as a last resort. COVAX has set aside five percent of its doses as a reserve for at-risk populations such as refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants. are not covered by national immunization programs.

“But as we prepare for this historic presentation, we need the support of this Council.

“First – join our call on all Member States to ensure that everyone is included in national vaccination plans, regardless of their legal status or if they live in areas controlled by non-state entities.

“Second – we need a global ceasefire. We need at least your help to extend Resolution 2532’s call for a humanitarian break during the delivery of the vaccine.

“And third – help us restart halted immunization campaigns for other diseases like measles, diphtheria and polio. We can’t let the fight against one deadly disease cause us to lose ground in the fight against others.

“Over the past year, the global community has come together to develop, manufacture, distribute and deliver this vaccine in record time.

“This historic effort deserves historic support. Help us ensure that the light at the end of the tunnel illuminates all of us – including families and communities suffering the horrors of conflict. Thank you.”