The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Middle East and North Africa, is concerned that the increasing COVID-19 transmissions in the region could spark a domino effect with catastrophic health, social, and economic impacts unless vaccination rollouts are stepped up and protection measures reinforced.
Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia reported the greatest number of new cases in the past weeks, with Tunisia reporting the greatest increase in newly reported deaths. Concerns for the future are mounting as variants continue to spread, health systems are on the verge of collapse and the vaccination rates in the Middle East and North Africa region continue to lag dangerously behind.
Dr. Haytham Qosa, Head of IFRC MENA Health Unit, said:
“Leaving countries behind on vaccines will only serve to prolong the pandemic, not just in the region, but globally. Many countries are facing other vulnerabilities, including conflict, natural disasters, water shortages, displacement, and other disease outbreaks. This makes people even more vulnerable to the devastating impacts of COVID-19. This alone should be a reason enough for global solidarity to ensure equitable vaccine access in the region. At a global level, vaccine equity is key to reducing the likelihood of variants and saving lives by limiting the spread of the virus. This is the only way we can truly end this pandemic.”
The Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 response since the outset. IFRC has been supporting the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in MENA with:
- Efforts to accelerate vaccination campaigns in support of the national vaccination plans.
- Provision of cash assistance, food parcels, hygiene kits, and masks to affected people.
- Provision of medical supplies including oxygen concentrators, ventilators & generators, and PPEs to local health authorities.
- Monitoring of the vaccination campaigns for quality, standards, fairness, and equity.
- Technical support with risk communication and community engagement.
Despite lofty rhetoric about global solidarity in terms of vaccine equity, there is a deadly gap in the global plan to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines. In the MENA region, only 10 doses per 100 people have been administered in many countries, including Libya, Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq. In Syria and Yemen, there has been less than one dose per 100 people1.
Dr. Hosam Faysal, Head of IFRC MENA Disasters, Climate and Crises Unit, coordinating the IFRC response to COVID-19, said:
“The new waves of the pandemic remind us that the battle against it is unfortunately not yet over. However, it also highlights the critical role of our Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers as trusted local actors who are able to quickly respond to new surges of cases. Across the region, they are working tirelessly to support the health system, help protect communities and ensure vaccines make it into the arms of the most vulnerable. But without more vaccines, there cannot be vaccinations.”