UN: COVID hitting poor and conflict nations worse this year

Photo: Fahad Kaizer/UN Women

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 UN’s deputy humanitarian chief has warned.

Ramesh Rajasingham said in a closed briefing to the UN 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.

In his briefing, 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.”

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 $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 UN has appealed for humanitarian assistance.