United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pledged the organisation’s solidarity with Africa amid international efforts to expand the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination.
Guterres’ remarks came in a video message to the opening of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development, held from 1 to 5 March.
“African countries and the African Union (AU) have shown leadership and unity in response to this unparalleled test. I reiterate the solidarity of the United Nations (UN) with the people and Governments of Africa at this time,” he said.
Guterres added that the UN is collaborating with international partners to provide coronavirus vaccines to African countries. Last week, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) delivered its first shipments of vaccines to Ghana and Ivory Coast.
COVAX is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and others.
Moreover, Guterres urged international powers to support African countries that suffer from economic impacts of COVID-19 and poor health infrastructure.
“The world urgently needs a Global Vaccination Plan, and I am urging the Group of 20 to bring together countries, companies, international organizations, and financial institutions with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities,” he said, “I am also calling on the international community to support the world’s most vulnerable people and countries, from strengthening health systems to providing debt relief.”
“In recent years, Africans have done much to advance the well-being of the continent’s people. Economic growth has been strong, the digital revolution has taken hold [and] a free trade area has been agreed. The United Nations will continue to support Africa’s efforts across this agenda, including Silencing the Guns,” Guterres concluded.
Moreover, Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the AU Commission, said that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the urgent need for African countries to establish a free trade area and to build a more resilient economy to face crises.
He stressed the need to work on establishing a new health system and building health capacities to ensure proper healthcare to all Africans.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said the Aswan Forum raised pressing issues and that the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of healthcare in the African continent.
He added that Africa must work to ensure prevention and protection and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and to improve the health system to guarantee the continent’s independence.
Kagame called for advancing the free trade zone in Africa, and creating supply chains for medicines and medical supplies.
President of Gabon Ali Bongo said the Aswan Forum aims to strengthen Africa’s immunity against the pandemic, which has had serious consequences and revealed the fragility of health systems in our countries and the international system.
The Gabonese President praised the role played by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to advance development and peace in the African continent
President Salva Kiir of South Sudan said the world and Africa are living in difficult conditions due to the pandemic.
He highlighted the importance of the Aswan Forum as a platform to exchange visions with regional and international partners in order to produce a joint response that will benefit all countries economically.
Meanwhile, President Macky Sall of Senegal called on the international community to ease the burden of debt on African countries. He asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to take action in this regard.
Additionally, Tunisian President Qais Saeed thanked President Al-Sisi for his keenness to host Aswan Forum despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. He also praised the Egyptian President’s continued efforts to strengthen communication between African countries and strategic partners.
Saeed said that since the onset of this pandemic, Tunisia has called on the international community to adopt a cross-cutting approach to effectively deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
He added that Tunisia stressed the expansion of the concept of comprehensive international security and called for a new mechanism to address emerging international threats.
He pointed to the UN Security Council’s proposed humanitarian truce to stop hostilities and armed conflicts.
President of Burkina Faso Roch Marc Christian Kaboré said that the recent poverty statistics showed that Africa has crossed the poverty line, as the pandemic has been a severe blow to all countries. Therefore, the world must strengthen research and studies, and support fair access to vaccines.