Published: 2021-04-01 19:44
Last Updated: 2021-04-11 04:47
The Director of the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Ahmed al-Mandhari said the organization is still detecting a ‘worrying trend’ regarding the number of people infected with COVID-19 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, which includes 22 countries.
Mandhari added that the 14 countries reported a significant increase in the number of new coronavirus cases over the past week.
During the virtual press conference held by the Regional Office with the participation of UNICEF's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Ted Chaiban, said that Jordan, Iran and Iraq have reported the largest number of new cases, while Jordan, Iran and Pakistan have reported the largest number of COVID-19 deaths.
He explained that there are several factors that contribute to the increase in the number of new cases including the fast spreading new virus mutations.
With both Ramadan and Easter fast approaching , Mandhari warned "There is a risk that we will continue to see more increases in cases and deaths, like what happened at the end of last year during the holidays," pointing out that social contact increases during the holidays and there is a lack of compliance with public health instructions.
Regarding COVID-19 vaccines in the region, he explained that more than 23 million doses have been given to 20 different countries in the region. Additionally, 12 countries in the region received vaccines through the COVAX initiative, the most recent of which is Egypt and Yemen, both of which received their first shipments Wednesday.
Regarding the global shortage of vaccines, which led to delays in providing tens of millions of doses through the COVAX initiative, he called on rich countries, in the region and across the world, to give some of their excess doses to countries that need them.
In response to Jordan News Agency Petra's question about the organization’s ability to achieve its goal of vaccinating 20 percent of the region’s population by the end of 2021 through the COVAX initiative, Mandhari said that there are many challenges. These challenges include logistical challenges, manufacturing challenges and difficulties training healthcare workers amongst other things. He noted that the biggest challenges is "competition for the purchase of vaccines by financially able countries."
Mandhari said "There is no winner in this competition. We need to provide the COVAX initiative with more doses of vaccines, so that we can ensure that all countries are able to vaccinate their priority groups."
UNICEF Regional Director pointed out that the organization has provided more than three million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, on behalf of the COVAX initiative, to 10 countries in the MENA region. These countries include Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
He said that the challenges of COVID-19 vaccination are not specific to the MENA region, but are global problems and need global solutions.
Chaiban called on the private sector to step forward and partner with the COVAX initiative to help increase the equitable distribution of vaccines. He also called on vaccine manufacturers to grant licensing and contracts for manufacturing, and share technology and knowledge with other vaccine manufacturers, without restrictions on manufacturing size or geographic location.
He stressed the importance of the media’s role in spreading accurate and reliable information, building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, combating misinformation about coronavirus as well as the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, which he says is 'extremely essential'.