By Cecilia Ologunagba
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday advocated equitable access to Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, especially for people affected by armed conflict.
The ICRC made the appeal in a statement posted on its website.
According to the humanitarian agency, as vaccines for COVID-19 become available, ICRC hopes to ensure that people affected by conflict and violence have access to it.
“We hope that people affected by conflict and violence who might otherwise be forced to the back of the line or forgotten all-together, also have equitable access to the vaccine.
“For people living in conflict areas, access to basic health services is often challenging or impossible. These populations are just as vulnerable to COVID-19 and deserve to be protected from this severe health menace.
“In addition, the ICRC estimates that more than 60 million people live in areas controlled by non-state armed groups, risk not being included in national vaccine distribution frameworks.
“Marginalised communities, including internally displaced persons, migrants, asylum seekers and detainees, must also be included in national vaccination programmes and be recognised as people in need of the health protections the vaccine will provide.’’
The statement quoted Robert Mardini, ICRC’s Director-General, as saying “health workers or someone with a compromised immune system in regions affected by armed conflict endure the double burden of conflict and COVID-19 in often-forgotten and neglected areas.
“We believe that people there should have the same right and access to the vaccine as others do.
“In conflict settings, poor health capacities due to the breakdown or destruction of health services, lack of health personnel, precarious infrastructure and disputed borders might hamper vaccine distribution.
“Reaching front-lines and areas controlled by non-state armed groups bring complications such as difficult logistics, the need for travel permissions and reduced availability of electricity and refrigeration.
“Restrictive measures and sanctions may impede access to these areas.’’
In addition, the statement noted that together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the ICRC would support Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies to support vaccination programme.
“The ICRC will support other Red Cross movement as they have a leading role in carrying out vaccination programme and distributing the COVID vaccine in their respective countries.’’
According to the statement, the ICRC is ready to support national vaccination campaigns and facilitate access to the COVID-19 vaccine by populations in countries affected by armed conflict and violence.
“Also, the ICRC is ready to use its privileged position and offer its services as a neutral intermediary to ensure access to the vaccine for people living in conflict zones, in areas not under governmental control and in places of detention.
“Excluding these populations from a COVID-19 vaccine presents a clear risk since no one will be safe until everyone is safe.’’
The ICRC, however, requested that states should ensure the inclusion of populations in humanitarian settings in national vaccination frameworks.
“States support Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, which have a key role in COVID-19 vaccination; states should maintain and strengthen routine immunisations and essential health services.
“Measles and polio campaigns have been suspended in dozens of countries, and at least 80 million children under age one are at risk of diseases with significant mortality such as measles, diphtheria and polio.
“Whilst a COVID vaccine is urgent, other vaccines are also most needed and must be provided.’’
ICRC stated that Community members, Red Cross/Red Crescent volunteers and religious and community leaders should be invited to help design and implement vaccine mobilization plans.
“Engaging communities and providing them with accurate information will be critical for the success of COVID-19 vaccination programmes and the safety of health personnel.’’
The statement further quoted Mardini, as saying, “together with our Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners, the ICRC is ready to contribute to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“ICRC is ready to contribute to the distribution of COVID-19, especially in areas affected by conflict and ‘last-mile’ areas along the frontlines, as well as in places of detention.
“We will also prioritise routine vaccinations and work to provide reliable information about vaccines.” (NAN)