Nigeria's Buhari chides rich nations over slow Covid vaccination in Africa

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Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari has urged developed counties to rapidly ramp up supplies of coronavirus vaccines to Africa and the developing world. He was speaking on day one of the three-day Paris Peace Forum.

Buhari told an audience including French President Emmanuel Macron and US Vice President Kamala Harris the low vaccination rates in Africa, compared with Europe, were a "clear case of lopsidedness".

"The coordination has to be total and the objective has to be the same – to deliver vaccines to the world. The state of vaccine delivery across the world leaves much to be desired," Buhari said.

"We have a situation where some countries are giving third booster doses for their citizens when millions across the world – especially in the developing world – are yet to receive a single dose."

Citing statistics showing that so far only a fraction of Africa's population had received a vaccination against Covid-19, Buhari said "a massive gap" between vaccine requirements in Africa and vaccine availability was undermining the fight against coronavirus.

His comments came after the World Health Organization in September said that even the doses delivered by the Covax alliance, set up to ensure equitable delivery of jabs, would be hit this year by a major shortfall in supplies to Africa.

"This is a major setback for Africa," Buhari warned.

"If global vaccination is the only way to end the coronavirus pandemic then all stakeholders must act in a coordinated manner to plug the vaccine gap in Africa," he said.

Pledges fall short

Responding to Buhari's call in his address, Macron said the "key was to go right to the end on the ground" in vaccine deliveries across the world.

But Macron acknowledged that even recent pledges made by the G7 and the G20 "are not enough", admitting that in parts of the developing world vaccination rates were 10 times lower.

"We need to go much quicker and much faster – firstly by accelerating the donations of vaccine doses," he said, also emphasising the importance of strengthening domestic health systems.

But Macron said the key priority was to help Africa produce vaccines inside the continent and not be reliant on outsiders.

"We cannot accept a situation where Africa represents 20 percent of (global) needs for vaccines – against whichever epidemic – but has a production capacity of two percent," said Macron.

Addressing global inequality

US Vice President Kamala Harris echoed this desire to address inequality on a global scale.

She told President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders attending the Paris Peace Forum that inequality gaps had narrowed and widened during human history but "throughout this pandemic the gaps have undoubtedly become larger".

"The world must work together to narrow inequality gaps on issues including poverty, health and gender inclusion that have only grown during the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

Speaking a week after the US Congress passed President Joe Biden's 1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure investment package, she said "no single nation" could be relied upon to deal with these challenges alone.

"Globally, extreme poverty is on the rise – as is extreme wealth," she said, adding that progress on gender equality was "under threat" as was a child's right to an education.

"By virtually every measure, the gaps have grown. We face a dramatic rise in inequality and we must meet this moment."

(with AFP)

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