African countries commit to ending all forms of polio at regional meeting

Brazzaville – Governments from the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region have committed to ending all remaining forms of polio and presented a scorecard to track progress towards the eradication of the virus. The commitments came at a dedicated meeting on polio at the Seventy-first WHO Regional Committee for Africa.

While the African Region was certified free of wild poliovirus one year ago following four years without a case, outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) continue to spread. cVDPVs occur in communities where not enough children have received the polio vaccine. Cases increased last year in part because of disruptions to polio vaccination campaigns caused by COVID-19. Since 2018, 23 countries in the region have experienced outbreaks and more than half of the global 1071 cVDPV cases were recorded in Africa.

“As Chair of the African Union, I am determined to work with other countries to protect the gains of our monumental efforts against polio and finish the job against all forms of this disease in Africa. Only then, we will be able to say we delivered on our promise of a safer, healthier future for all our children,” said H.E. Félix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At the Regional Committee, countries discussed how they will begin implementing the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) 2022-2026 Strategy that was launched in June to urgently stop the spread of cVDPVs. The tools and tactics outlined in the Strategy to stop outbreaks include:

• Improving the speed and quality of outbreak response, including through the rapid deployment of surge staff from the WHO Regional Office for Africa to support countries as soon as outbreaks are detected.

• Further integrating polio campaigns with the delivery of essential health services and routine immunization to reach children who have never been vaccinated, help build trust with communities and improve uptake of the polio vaccine.

• Broadening the rollout of the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), a new tool that could more sustainably end outbreaks of type 2 cVDPV, which are the most prevalent. To date, six countries in Africa have rolled out the vaccine with close to 40 million children vaccinated and no concerns noted for safety.

“The poliovirus disregards and defies borders. Its presence anywhere in our region is a threat to all countries. Togo is committed to working with our regional partners and acting with the urgency required to implement high quality polio campaigns and protect children across Africa. With collective action, we will defeat all forms of polio,” said Hon Professor Moustafa Mijiyawa, Togo’s Minister of Health and Public Hygiene and Universal Access to Health Care and the Chairperson of the Seventy-first session of the Regional Committee for Africa.

The scorecard presented at the Regional Committee will track indicators for implementation of timely, high-quality polio outbreak response, readiness to introduce nOPV2 as the new vaccine becomes eligible for broader use, strengthening routine immunization to close immunity gaps, and transitioning polio assets into national health systems in a strategic, phased approach. Ministers committed to regularly reviewing progress together on each of these indicators to ensure collective success in urgently finishing the job on polio and securing a polio-free future for every child across the region.

“Our success in ending wild poliovirus in the region shows what is possible when we work together with urgency. COVID-19 has threatened this triumph as governments worked hard to limit the spread of COVID-19, pausing some campaigns. However, we cannot waver, and with renewed vigour we can overcome the final hurdles that jeopardize our success. We have the know-how, but it must be backed by committed resources to reach all under-vaccinated communities and ensure that all children thrive in a world free of polio. Together, we can help the world achieve polio eradication,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Almost 100 million African children have been vaccinated against polio since July 2020, after activities were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Regional Committee also discussed how to accelerate the transition of polio infrastructure into countries’ health systems, so that it can continue to support immunization and disease surveillance once polio is eradicated. The polio programme has a history of supporting the response to emerging health threats in the Region, including Ebola and COVID-19, and half of polio surge staff are currently helping countries with COVID-19 surveillance, contact tracing and community engagement.

“We need increased political and financial commitment by governments and partners to walk the last mile towards ending all forms of polio,” said Dr Tunji Funsho, chair of Rotary’s National PolioPlus Committee, Nigeria. “We must reach more children faster and comprehensively to not only curb outbreaks swiftly, but to also scale up vaccination coverage and give children lasting protection against this preventable disease.”

Dr Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Hon Professor Moustafa Mijiyawa and Dr Tunji Funsho. Also on hand to respond to questions were Dr Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator, Polio Eradication Programme, WHO Regional Office for Africa; Dr Richard Mihigo, Coordinator, Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme, WHO Regional Office for Africa; and Dr Thierno Balde, Team Leader, Operational Partnerships, WHO Regional Office for Africa.

Note to editors:

The WHO Regional Committee for Africa is the World Health Organization’s decision-making body on health policy in the African Region. It comprises of Ministers of Health or their representatives from each of the 47 Member States in the African Region.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership led by national governments with six core partners – the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please Contact:

Collins Boakye-Agyemang

Communications and marketing officer

Tel: + 242 06 520 65 65 (WhatsApp)

Email: boakyeagyemangc@who.int

Ben Winkel

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Email: bwinkel@globalhealthstrategies.com

Tel: +1 323 382 2290

Source: World Health Organization

WHO Says COVID-19 Wave ‘Stabilizing’ in Africa

A World Health Organization official said Thursday that the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent appeared to be stabilizing, but numbers of infections are still very high, with almost 248,000 new cases reported in the past week alone.

During a virtual briefing on the status of the pandemic in Africa, WHO Africa Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti said that 24 countries were seeing a resurgence of infections and that deaths were rising in eight countries.

She said, “This is a preventable tragedy if African countries can get fair access to the vaccines.”

Moeti said the good news was that 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the past week, triple that of the previous week. She said many of the doses came from donations and sharing arrangements through the WHO-administered COVAX vaccine cooperative.

She said 117 million doses were due to arrive in Africa in the coming month. But to meet the goal of having at least 10 percent of the continent vaccinated by the end of September, she said, another 34 million doses will be needed.

The WHO Africa director urged nations with ample supplies to keep sharing doses. She said, “With international solidarity we can protect those at highest risk of COVID-19 in all countries in the world.”

She also encouraged African governments to ensure that staffing and financial resources were available when shots arrived “to get vaccines into the arms of our populations. No precious doses should be wasted.”

Source: Voice of America

IFRC launches multiregional plan to ramp up humanitarian assistance to migrants and displaced people

Geneva, 26 August 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched today a three-year plan to extend humanitarian assistance and support to migrants and displaced people along the migration routes of greatest humanitarian concern in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, three regions facing some of the most complex and critical migration dynamics in the world.

As a global humanitarian network with a presence in 192 countries and 14 million community-based volunteers, the IFRC witnesses every day the enormous suffering that many migrants and displaced people face along their journeys.

Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General, National Society Development and Operations Coordination, said:

“Migrants and displaced people are taking increasingly dangerous routes, both across land and sea. During their journeys, they face significant risks and challenges: many are abused and face exploitation – others face protection risks, including child abuse, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking. We are extremely concerned that migrants and displaced people are not able, at all stages of their journey, to access what they need most – such as food, water and sanitation, shelter, and healthcare. Our multiregional humanitarian assistance plan aims to bridge this gap”.

The IFRC multiregional plan brings together humanitarian operations of 34 National Societies across Africa, the Middle East and Europe and focuses on delivering humanitarian assistance and protection to over 2 million people and more than 500,000 individuals from host communities every year. In order to extend humanitarian assistance to a growing number of people in need, the IFRC is appealing for financial support totalling 174 million Swiss francs over three years.

The plan also includes assistance and protection to people in distress at sea on the Central Mediterranean route. Through a partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE, a European maritime and humanitarian organization operating in the Mediterranean Sea, the IFRC will provide life-saving support to people rescued at sea as of early September 2021. SOS MEDITERRANEE will conduct search and rescue operations at sea, while IFRC will provide post-rescue support — including medical care, psychological support, protection and basic necessities — to the people who have been safely brought onboard the Ocean Viking. The IFRC team includes medical doctors, a midwife and professionals who can provide psychological support and assist those who are particularly vulnerable and in need of special protection, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking.

The long-standing commitment and experience of the IFRC network in providing assistance and protection to all migrants all along their migratory journeys allows for an integrated and comprehensive response, based on people’s needs and vulnerabilities. Our principled approach to migration, as well as our global presence along migratory routes, mean that we are uniquely positioned to provide humanitarian assistance and protection at all steps of migrants’ journeys – in countries of origin, transit and destination.

To learn more about the plan, download the document Humanitarian assistance and protection for people on the move (pdf, 18 Mb)

Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies

Climate Change: An Assault on the Hungry Poor in Southern Africa

While Southern Africa contributes only 1 percent to global carbon emissions, their temperatures are rising at double the global rate and climate impacts such as cyclones and droughts are rampant. This factsheet brings to the fore climate change challenges in the region and how WFP is supporting the people in adapting to this unrelenting phenomenon.

Source: World Health Organization

Humanitarian assistance and protection for people on the move

People on the move – migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced populations – face extraordinary risks to their lives, safety, dignity, human rights and well-being.

In part this is connected to the core reasons that lead to migration and displacement, ranging from violence, persecution, conflict, poverty, political and social issues, as well as disasters and the adverse effects of climate change. In 2021, we are seeing the compounding factors of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis driving higher numbers of people to migrate, exacerbating risks and vulnerabilities.

The risks that people on the move face are also connected to increasingly dangerous routes, both across land and sea. In 2021, more than 2,200 people worldwide have lost their lives during dangerous migration journeys. Many others face abuse, exploitation, and protection risks, including child abuse, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.

However, one of the main concerns for people on the move – and at all stages of their journeys – is the ability to access essential and life-saving assistance and protection.

To address these concerns, the IFRC has recently adopted a ten-year global strategic commitment to scale up support for the most at-risk migrants and displaced people, including through enhancing cross-border and route-based cooperation among National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies along the most dangerous migration routes across the globe.

This new three-year programme focuses on IFRC’s humanitarian assistance to migrants, displaced people and host communities on the migration routes of greatest humanitarian concern spanning Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

These regions face some of the most complex and critical migration dynamics in the world. Within these dynamics, this three-year plan focuses on the three trans-Mediterranean migration routes, the Atlantic and the Balkans routes. These routes continue to be among the most active and dangerous for people crossing these three regions.

At the operational level, the three-year plan focuses on the critical need for all migrants and displaced people – irrespective of their legal status – to have access to life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection throughout their journeys, both on land and at sea.

Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies

Mass vaccinations in Somalia should be steered by success of polio eradication campaign – Dr. Abdi Tari Ali

A shortage of Covid-19 vaccines and vaccine resistance is threatening to collapse Somalia’s fragile healthcare system. Less than 1% of Somalians have been vaccinated but lessons can and should be learned from the polio eradication campaign, says Dr. Abdi Tari Ali, Deputy Director of Trócaire Somalia.

The vaccination rollout in Somalia is nowhere near European success rates – we have a limited supply and there is a growing vaccine resistance which is being driven by misinformation and a lack of public awareness.

Wealthy nations struck deals with vaccine manufacturers, securing a disproportionately large share of early supply, leaving vulnerable nations like ours in a more precarious situation. This has undermined COVAX (the system which aims to provide innovative and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines in the developing world) ability to distribute shots equitably and has widened the vaccination gap between Africa and other parts of the world. Despite the challenges, COVAX has delivered more than 31 million doses to 46 countries in Africa, and it aims to supply 520 million doses to the continent by the end of 2021. According to the African Union (AU), Somalia received 716,000 doses but this is against a population of almost 16 million.

We need to borrow from lessons learned in mass vaccination campaigns such as the polio eradication campaign to make the rollout as effective as possible. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) estimates that vaccination efforts saved more than 1.5 million lives and prevented 16 million people from polio-induced paralysis. The success of the polio eradication campaign comes down to several key factors which can be adopted in Somalia’s Covid-19 vaccination efforts for an effective outcome.

The polio eradication campaign had a large team of trained community and health workers (vaccinators) available to reach as many children as possible and there was strong commitment and goodwill from the government, partners and health care workers throughout. The campaign integrated robust data systems and analysis which supported more accurate, data driven decision making in response efforts.

The incorporation of a strong monitoring network that reached urban and rural areas was geared towards first detecting acute flaccid paralysis in children, supported by testing to confirm diagnosis and identifying the target area for vaccination efforts.

What barriers are there to mass vaccinations in Somalia?

One of our biggest challenges in Somalia is a limited supply of vaccines – we need more vaccines. We need support to ensure we have enough healthcare workers in place to strengthen our vaccination efforts. We need support to promote uptake of the vaccines amongst hesitant communities. Only 35% of our supply has been administered so far – risk communications and community engagement activities implemented have not adequately dispelled misinformation on Covid-19 vaccination.

Covid-19 vaccines have a short shelf life and require ultra-cool storage – we don’t have enough refrigerators to store our limited supply. Each vaccines dose is a chance to save a life and we need to rebuild trust amongst our communities to inspire them to get vaccinated.

We need to develop a plan that decentralises our vaccination efforts – most vaccinations are happening in urban areas and are not targeting populations in hard-to-reach places. We need to end the control of vaccines by armed opposition groups. Somali people living in areas controlled by armed opposition groups (AOGs) will have to choose between taking the Covid-19 vaccine and other vaccines or face the risk of defying AOGs directives.

The AU, through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), has signed an agreement to purchase 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses. It is expected that around 6 million will be delivered this August but funding to purchase doses through the AU facility remains a challenge for many countries like Somalia.

Covid-19 threatens to weaken the health care system further and exacerbate the effect of current crises, leading to more deaths and an increase in the number of people in need of assistance. As of 12 July 2021, Somalia reports a total of 16,103 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 864 deaths and 7,854 recoverieson top of the reduction in aid funding, threatens to exacerbate the humanitarian situation on the ground.

We are calling for a more equitable distribution of vaccines which we urgently need and an increase in bilateral supply to African states to prevent inequalities which will effectively delay global recovery efforts.

How did the global vaccine rollout go wrong in Africa?

With most African governments unable to buy vaccines themselves, they have relied on GAVI, the global vaccine alliance behind COVAX, to deliver vaccines for various illnesses, including Covid-19. However, wealthy nations secured a disproportionately large share of early supply. This has undermined the ability of COVAX to distribute shots equitably.

COVAX also depended on the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, for its supply. However, with the soaring Covid-19 cases in India, vaccine exports were halted, disrupting COVAX efforts in 36 African countries.

Source: Trócaire

Africa CDC and IFRC ramp up COVID-19 response in Africa

Addis Ababa, 25 August 2021 – The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today launched a new collaboration to strengthen community resilience and response to public health emergencies at community level. The two institutions have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ramp up pandemic response—including testing support to countries; community mobilization; advocacy and scaling up of contact tracing. In addition to COVID-19, the collaboration includes other areas of public health.

Africa CDC and IFRC will strengthen investments in locally-led action—for prevention and response purposes—while working with governments to ensure they intensify efforts to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, Africa CDC and IFRC will scale up advocacy against vaccine wastage.

This new initiative comes at a time Africa continues to face major vaccine shortages, amid a high level of community transmission in countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said: “Africa is facing a double-edged challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with health response gaps, and also trying to ensure that the continent prepares efficiently for future pandemics, using lessons from current challenges”.

Africa CDC has been implementing various public health responses to control COVID-19. These include the engagement of community health workers in risk communication and community sensitization; surveillance activities for early case identification; contact tracing and in facilitating referrals for testing and continuum of care.

Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: “What the IFRC and its network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies bring to this partnership with Africa CDC is our unparalleled access to local communities. Our community-based volunteers have the access and trust that are needed to address vaccine hesitancy and sensitize communities about adherence to preventive measures”.

The Africa CDC has been working to support African Union Member States to build a wide network of 2 million community health workers (CHWs) in line with the July 2017 African Union Assembly Decision. The collaboration with the IFRC network, which includes 1.2 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers across the continent is expected to strengthen community level interventions and consolidate gains in tackling the spread of the virus, while increasing awareness about vaccine benefits.

National Red Cross Red and Crescent Societies across Africa remain on the frontline of the response to COVID-19. They are providing ambulance services; conducting contact tracing and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation and provide emotional comfort and psychological support to people in need.

Media contacts

Africa CDC:

Dr Herilinda Temba (CHWs program): HerilindaT@africa-union.org

Dolphine Buoga (Partnership): DolphineB@africa-union.org

Fortunate C. Mutesi (Partnership): Mutesic@africa-union.org

Chrys P. Kaniki (Media engagement): KanikiC@africa-union.org

IFRC:

In Addis: Betelehem Tsedeke, +251 935 987 286, Betelehem.tsedeke@ifrc.org

In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613, euloge.ishimwe@ifrc.org

In Geneva: Laura Ngo-Fontaine, +41 79 570 4418, laura.ngofontaine@ifrc.org

Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies

UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women: Annual Report 2020

2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Violence against women and girls (VAW/G) remains the most widespread breach of human rights – a long-standing pandemic whose many forms and manifestations are often exacerbated in times of crisis. Since its establishment in 1996, the UN Trust Fund has evolved, adapted and learned about effective initiatives to end VAW/G. Over the past 25 years, its grantees have impacted the lives of women and girls in every region, addressing complex and diverse forms of VAW/G through innovative programmes driven by the demands of their particular contexts.

The UN Trust Fund deployed this cumulative and unique body of knowledge and experience in 2020 to support organizations confronting the challenges of implementing initiatives to end VAW/G during the COVID-19 pandemic. An understanding of the importance of flexible and swift responses, underpinned by relationships of trust, helped ensure that vital civil society organizations (CSOs), especially women’s rights organizations (WROs), working to end VAW/G were able to survive and adapt.

During 2020, COVID-19 and the measures adopted to contain the pandemic saw a dramatic rise in VAW/G, severely impacting the work of the UN Trust Fund and grantees. Above all, it exposed the lack of preparedness of countries to respond to and deal with existing, ongoing and persistent VAW/G.

Indeed, prevalence figures released by the World Health Organization based on 2018 data, confirmed that 1 in 3 women around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner, indicating that levels of VAW/G remained disturbingly high and gains in women’s rights fragile, even before COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, also highlighted the vital role played by CSOs/WROs in preventing and addressing VAW/G as first responders in crises. Their work is especially important in meeting the needs of women and girls who experience intersecting forms of discrimination and who are at most risk of violence.

This report reflects on the work of the UN Trust and its grantees since its inception in 1996 and looks in greater detail at the achievements of grantees during the last Strategic Plan (2016-2020) and specifically during 2020.

In its 25 years of existence, the UN Trust Fund has supported a total of 572 initiatives specifically aimed at preventing and addressing all forms of violence against women and girls across the globe.

In the past five years, its grant giving has focused primarily on funding CSOs/WROs and specifically WROs. During this time the grantees reported reaching at least 54,615,105 people and at least 1,604,305 women and girls benefited directly through services, empowerment activities and protection from violence, including more than 149,958 survivors of violence.

During 2020, COVID-19 and a dramatic increase in VAW/G globally posed new, and at times existential, challenges to UN Trust Fund grantees. Despite this, grantees reached over 31,071,058 people through various initiatives and ensured that more than 242,569 women and girls directly benefited from support that led to transformative changes in their lives, to prevent and respond to violence including services for at least 26,519 women/girl survivors of violence.

As this report shows, during 2020 grantees were able, with UN Trust Fund support, to adapt swiftly to maintain key aspects of their projects, while protecting the safety of beneficiaries and staff. The overall impact of COVID-19 on grantees and their work to prevent and address VAW/G was localized and complex, but some key trends were clear.

These included a stark rise in intimate partner violence, sexual violence, online harassment and harmful traditional practices; a severe impact on those experiencing intersectional discrimination and marginalization and those most at risk of being left behind; and a lack of sustainable, structural and societal support for work on ending VAW/G. CSOs/WROs rose to these challenges. This report also describes some of the specific steps taken by the UN Trust Fund to strengthen and support their role as first responders to women and girls, including funding specifically aimed at ensuring organizational survival and resilience.

With UN Trust Fund support, grantees have enabled 158,736 women and girls to access specialist support services and helped 23,089 service providers around the world to improve their provision of services.

The year also saw the close of the Strategic Plan 2016-2020. The three priority areas set for this period were: improving access for women and girls to essential, safe and adequate multisectoral services; furthering implementation of legislation, policies, national action plans and accountability systems; and promoting the prevention of VAW/G.

In addition, at least 133 institutional policies or protocols on VAW/G have been developed or improved at various institutional levels. This report details some of the key achievements of grantees in 2020 under these three pillars.

Throughout the period of the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, the UN Trust Fund has continued to build a global Evidence Hub on ending VAW/G, grounded in evaluated grantee results, to create a platform for collecting and disseminating practice-based knowledge and lessons. This report looks at some key areas of progress in taking forward this commitment to continuous learning and sharing practice-based knowledge and lessons learned, which proved invaluable in enabling a prompt and effective response to the crisis in 2020.

This report also looks to the future, highlighting the priorities, challenges and opportunities identified to take the UN Trust Fund forward over the next five years. Its Strategic Plan 2021-2025 will continue efforts to effectively support CSOs/WROs to prevent and end VAW/G. Grounded in feminist principles, it will continue to be led and informed by women’s experiences and civil society efforts to end VAW/G, fully recognizing women’s and survivors’ own agency and will be guided by the expertise and knowledge generated by CSOs/WROs.

The final chapter is devoted to the achievements during the year by grantees under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative. The specific central focus of the collaboration between the UN Trust Fund and the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative is strengthening and supporting women’s rights groups and autonomous civil society organizations (Outcome 6 of the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative Theory of Change) for projects working to end VAW/G.5 In 2019 and 2020, the UN Trust Fund cumulatively awarded USD24 million in direct grants to 55 CSOs/WROs in 25 countries in Latin America (11 grants) and sub-Saharan Africa (44 grants). This included USD9 million in resources to 44 CSOs/WROs in sub-Saharan Africa for their institutional strengthening in the context of the COVID-19 Response Framework in 2020. Looking to the future, the UN Trust Fund is analysing the contribution grantees make to women’s / feminist movements locally and nationally as well as how grantees have organisationally and programmatically adapted to COVID-19 that provide lessons for future ending VAW/G work especially in times of crisis.

Source: UN Women