The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting conflict-ridden and impoverished countries much worse this year than in 2020, with many facing higher caseloads and rising deaths, the U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief warned Monday.
Ramesh Rajasingham said in a closed briefing to the U.N. Security Council that these surges are being fueled by a lack of access to vaccines, an easing of public health measures, increased social mixing, and the spread of the delta variant to at least 124 countries, including 17 fragile and conflict-affected nations.
This pandemic is far from over, he said. We are arguably in one of the most dangerous periods for the poorest people on our planet.
In his briefing obtained by The Associated Press, Rajasingham said that so far in 2021 almost three-quarters of countries needing humanitarian aid have recorded more cases or deaths than in all of 2020.
And in over one-third of those countries, he added, at least three times more cases or deaths have been recorded this year compared to last.
He called these numbers just the tip of the iceberg, saying that testing capabilities in many of these countries are inadequate so the U.N. doesn’t have a true sense of the actual scale of the crisis.
Today, we have a two-track pandemic — one trajectory for the rich world, and one for the poor — characterized by dramatic differences in vaccine availability, infection rates and the ability to provide policy support, he said.
Rajasingham urged the international community to respond by ensuring that the poorest countries have access to protective equipment, oxygen, testing kits and other critical supplies.
To tackle the pandemic and the worsening impact on the poorest people, he said, the global humanitarian system is appealing for USD 36 billion to help 161 million people.
Rajasingham said fragile and conflict-affected countries also must have access to vaccines. To date, he said, 80 million vaccine doses have been delivered to countries where the U.N. has appealed for humanitarian assistance.