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COVID-19: World Bank approves $12bn to support vaccination in Africa


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THE World Bank has earmarked 12 billion US dollars to support vaccination against COVID-19 in Africa. 

David Malpass, president of the bank, said the fund would be in the form of grants or on ‘highly concessional terms,’ Bloomberg reported on Saturday.

The decision, the reports said, was sequel to January 27 virtual meeting on the Africa COVID-19 vaccine financing and deployment strategy.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and one of the countries with the highest infections and fatalities from the virus on the continent, was not among the few countries listed as beneficiaries of the fund by Malpass. However, two-thirds of the benefitting countries were not immediately listed by the bank’s chief.

“We’re preparing emergency vaccine financing projects in 21 countries in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Niger, Mozambique, Tunisia, Eswatini and Cabo Verde to name a few; the funds are available now,” Malpass said.

He added:  “Since the outbreak of COVID-19 last March, the bank has committed 25 billion dollars to African countries to support their health and economic recovery, and we expect to commit an additional 15 billion dollars by June. We urge leaders of African countries to move quickly to secure vaccinations for their populations, and to avail themselves of the financing available from us.”

Data from the Africa Centre for Disease Control as of Saturday morning showed that African Union member countries (55 in total) had reported 3.534 million cases, 3.014 recoveries and 89,839 deaths, with Nigeria having 128, 674 and 1,577 of the cases and deaths respectively.

The Africa Centre for Disease Control had suggested that it would cost between 10 billion dollars and 15 billion dollars to vaccinate 60 percent of Africa.

Nigeria had, in early January, promised to secure 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which it said would first be administered on frontline health workers and other vulnerable people in the country. The vaccine would come courtesy the World Health Organisation which advocates equity in vaccines distribution to ensure developing nations are not left out in the immunisation campaign.

The announcement came after the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had proposed 400 billion naira for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine with which it hoped to vaccinate 70 percent of its estimated 200 million population.

READ ALSOFG considers lockdown in Abuja, Lagos, others as COVID-19 cases surpass 127,000

The country’s decision to spend such a sum on vaccine  given the strong immunity of Nigerians against the disease has attracted more criticisms than applause.

Most prominent of the critics is Bill Gates, world’s biggest individual vaccine funder and fourth richest on the globe.

Gates had opined while addressing journalists that funding the nation’s weak primary health care system would  do the nation greater good than purchasing COVID-19 vaccine.

He had said, “There is no doubt that the impact of putting money into the health system, particularly the primary healthcare system, will be very high in terms of saving children’s lives.

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“Nigeria should not divert the very limited money that it has for health into trying to pay a high price for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Apart from COVID-19 in which it has had high infections but comparably low fatalities, Nigeria currently parades some of world’s worst health statistics, namely maternal and child morbidity and mortality, HIV/AIDS, neglected tropical diseases (NTDS), malaria, tuberculosis.

The country also has high cases of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, hypertension and diabetes – of which it has no official data. Experts have blamed these conditions on underfunding of the nation’s health sector, inadequate manpower, brain drain, ill-equipped and insufficient facilities, policy summersaults, lack of political will, corruption and other ills.

Visit the ICIR COVID-19 portal

The ICIR checks show that Nigeria ranks 75th among 192 countries, regions and sovereignties whose COVID-19 data has been captured by John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, one of world’s most credible platforms for information on the disease.

Nigeria has conducted over 1.2 million COVID-19 tests out of its estimated over 200 million population.

Challenged by the second wave of the virus, the federal government has hinted it could lock down major cities in the country, including Lagos and Abuja.

Nigeria’s economy, as other countries of the world, has been negatively affected by the pandemic as government revenues have plunged, resulting in job losses and wage cuts.

The crisis has further compounded the nation’s standing as world’s poverty capital based on the projection by World Poverty Clock, compiled by Brookings Institute in 2018.

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