Fight against COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa and delays in essential vaccination programmes

Fight against COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa and delays in essential vaccination programmes

On 2 September 2020, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Dominique Bilde of the Identity and Democracy Group posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“According to the Commission’s update on 7 July 2020, the aid it provides for the fight against COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa is in the region of EUR 2 231 million.

However, in early August 2020, the number of cases in Africa was estimated at one million and the number of deaths at 21 000. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of the World Health Organisation for Africa, thus acknowledged that the development of the pandemic in Africa was ‘much less serious than expected’.

It is worth noting that, according to Le Monde, ‘each COVID-19 death avoided as a result of the cessation of vaccination campaigns in Africa could lead, on average, to 139 avoidable deaths’, due to the disruption of certain health programmes, in particular vaccination programmes. In fact, Africa had ‘8.5 million under-vaccinated children in 2018’.

This is particularly true for the measles vaccination, which 117 million children risk not receiving.

How does the Commission intend to ensure that the resources deployed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic do not give rise to other health risks, in particular through the disruption of essential vaccination campaigns, and that the assistance provided thus genuinely meets health needs?”

On 19 January 2021, International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “To support the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, Team Europe has mobilised EUR 2.5 billion to address the immediate health, water and sanitation priorities and bolster health systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Commission is committed to continuing strengthening health systems in partner countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, in coherence with all ongoing initiatives that the EU undertakes in global health. This includes measures addressing the disruption of routine health services, such as support to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance’s, immunisation programmes.

EU health aid in the current Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 amounts to EUR 2.6 billion, of which EUR 1.3 billion is allocated to bilateral health programmes in 17 countries, mainly in Africa, and another EUR 1.3 billion to Global Health Initiatives. The EU also supports basic health services, including vaccination programmes, through its humanitarian aid projects.

The EU also strongly supports the World Health Organisation focusing on strengthening health systems to achieve universal health coverage in a dedicated partnership programme of EUR

102 million, including more than 35 countries in Africa — a further EUR 170 million were pledged in 2020 in response to COVID-19.

The EU has supported Gavi in strengthening immunisation capacities and health systems of the world’s vulnerable countries with EUR 200 million from 2016 to 2020 and pledged EUR 300 million for the 2021-2025 period.

Between 2016 and 2018, Gavi immunised 198 million children in the poorest countries. Gavi will continue to expand its routine immunisation programmes to avoid future deaths from preventable diseases resulting from COVID-19 related interruptions.”


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