The United Nations children’s organisation UNICEF is to receive £1.5 million from the Scottish Government to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in three African countries.
The funds will support both the COVID-19 vaccination programmes and strengthening of the health systems in Rwanda, Zambia and Malawi, through the provision of equipment, resources and technical support in response to the pandemic.
The funding will support the identified priority of delivery of at least 6.5 million vaccine syringes in Rwanda, to ensure that sufficient vaccination equipment is available so that doses arriving are able to be utilised as quickly as possible.
In Malawi and Zambia, UNICEF will also work to provide information about, and build confidence and acceptance of, the COVID-19 vaccines at community level– a vital part of the programme which could reach ten million people in total.
The funding will also help to strengthen Malawi and Zambia’s national health systems through the provision of oxygen supplies, procuring oxygen generation plants and strengthening vaccine storage infrastructure – initiatives that will create a sustained impact for both the COVID-19 response, the routine immunisation programme and the treatment of respiratory illnesses for years to come.
Minister for International Development Neil Gray said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest global challenges. It is a disease that does not recognise nations or borders, and we are well aware of the inequity in the access to COVID-19 vaccines across the world.
“This partnership with UNICEF will allow us to support our partner country governments in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda in their COVID-19 response, and will go some way to addressing vaccine inequity in Africa.
“By working together on this shared challenge, and helping to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in our partner countries, this funding also underlines this government’s commitment to international solidarity and to fulfilling its role as a responsible and compassionate global citizen.”
Antoinette Eleonore Ba, UNICEF Health Specialist for Eastern and Southern Africa, said:
“Countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have made great strides in tackling the pandemic, but there is still much more work to be done to support the operational planning and logistics of COVID-19 vaccine roll outs.
“Scottish Government funding will provide valuable support for UNICEF’s response in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia, including making sure communities have the information they need to access vaccines, providing supplies such as syringes for administering the vaccines and increasing cold chain capacity and oxygen provision – all key interventions that will strengthen health systems in the three countries to both help save lives now and in the future.”
In December 2020, the Scottish Government provided UNICEF with a grant of £2 million to assist with their support of the Scottish Government’s African partner country governments’ COVID-19 response.
The grant ensured that the Scottish Government could support Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to implement their COVID-19 national response plans. The funds were also used to help the governments of Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda prepare for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination
UNICEF is an existing partner of the Governments of Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda , and has supported the supply and management of vaccines and the routine immunisation programmes for decades.