Covid-19: US-based African billionaire opens first full vaccine plant in Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa is hosting the first COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant on the continent where jabs will be produced from start to finish.

The name of the company to do that is Nants-SA facility located in Cape Town.

The plant is “an initiative by the US-based, South African-born biotech billionaire Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong.”

It aims to start producing the vaccines within a year and to make a billion doses annually by 2025.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa joined the billionaire at the launch of the facility. Ramphosa stressed that the facility is a gamechanger relative to Africa’s vaccine sufficiency.

South Africa has other vaccine manufacturing companies but they are largely assembly points unlike the Nants-SA facility.

Source: Nam News Network

UNESCO and ARIJ join hands to enhance the safety of investigative journalists in the Arab region

UNESCO and Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) launched in January 2022 a new project entitled “Aman360” (“Safety 360” in Arabic), marking the 10th anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Aman360 will deploy innovative methods to enhance the safety of investigative journalists in the region, including safety guidelines, webinars, training sessions, safety clinics and a hotline service.

The project was created within the framework of a Funds-In-Trust project funded by Denmark entitled “Enhancing the Safety of Journalists in Africa and the Arab Region”, and UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP).

Within the media landscape, investigative journalists play a particularly crucial role. They uncover malpractice, fraud, corruption, and human rights abuses, thereby promoting transparency and accountability in society. For this reason, they are particularly vulnerable to threats, violence, and killings which in turn underlines the importance of enhancing their safety through different means.

ARIJ has been active for 15 years in fostering a culture of safety and leads a network of investigative journalists across the region. It has trained more than 3.500 journalists and supported the production of over 650 investigations. It will be joined in its efforts on the ground by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s largest organization of journalists. UNESCO will implement Aman360 in the MENA region, with a particular focus on Algeria, Iraq, Mauritania, Palestine, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Since its formal creation in 2017, the MDP has implemented actions aiming at enhancing freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists in over 35 countries. As part of its focus on safety, it has held numerous capacity-building activities (including physical and digital safety trainings), produced dedicated resources, and supported safety mechanisms at national and regional levels. Thanks to the MDP, UNESCO has been an active player in protecting freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in the Arab region in countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. The Aman360 project comes to complement pre-existing initiatives, and will also serve to reinforce the implementation of the Hague Commitment to Increase the Safety of Journalists and of the Global Drive for Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists, launched jointly with OHCHR in 2021.

About the Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP)

The MDP serves to further strengthen UNESCO work at a global, regional, and national levels, by channeling funds towards emerging priorities and the most pressing needs to achieve its mandate on freedom of expression. It enables UNESCO Communication and Information Sector to address complex issues through the design and implementation of holistic medium and long-term interventions at national, regional and global levels. The clear advantage of this mechanism is that it allows UNESCO and its partners to achieve greater impact and sustainability, whilst reducing fragmentation of activities in the same field.

Source: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

WFP Zimbabwe Country Brief, December 2021

In Numbers

10,050 mt of food assistance distributed

USD 2.94m cash-based transfers made

USD 71m next six months (January – June 2022) net funding requirements

838,996 people assisted In December 2021

Operational Updates

• WFP informed stakeholders and participants under the Urban Social Assistance and Resilience Building programme about the downscaling of this initiative due to insufficient funding. Starting in January 2022, WFP will only reach 49,000 (in Harare South, Masvingo Urban and Chiredzi) out of the 326,000 vulnerable city dwellers that benefitted from cash transfers throughout 2021, with an entitlement of 10 instead of 12 dollars. WFP and cooperating partners communicated these changes to beneficiaries through various mediums including radio, visual posters, short message services (sms), written signage, and verbally through community meetings and established community feedback mechanisms.

Some of the families that will no longer receive cash support will be prioritized under longer term resiliencebuilding activities: WFP is expanding its coverage from 30,000 to 180,000 people, with the aim of contributing to more sustainable solutions for people in cities. Cash and resilience-building activities are complementary to moving beyond a cycle of dependence, as transfers provide a lifeline to meet short term needs and livelihood options help boost the local economy and find sustainable longer-term solutions.

• The lean season response scaled up to target 542,000 people across 12 districts in December. However, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and delays in distributions during the rainy season, WFP provided double rations (covering December and January cycles) across 9 districts, thus reaching 625,200 people. WFP will further increase its coverage to 649,000 people every month, across 12 rural districts, until March.

• To manage climate-related risks, WFP enhances linkages between risk reduction (asset creation and improved agricultural practices), risk transfer (access to insurance to farmers), risk reserves (livelihoods diversification) and prudent risk taking (saving and lending schemes).

Preliminary findings of the decentralized evaluation report covering 2018-2021 show that participatory planning ensured that actions were relevant to participants’ context and needs. The provision of crop insurance is acknowledged as an appropriate way of mitigating climatic risks, while village savings and loan groups are relevant for enabling a largely unbanked population to save and take loans. Mechanization is identified as a way to reduce resistance to adopting conservation agriculture techniques. WFP and its partners will integrate recommendations from this study in their planning.

• Standard Precipitation Indices (SPIs) computed from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) detected the probability of a mildto-moderate drought in Mudzi early 2022. As a result, the Forecast-based Financing (FbF) Standard Operating Procedure for Mudzi district was activated in September to implement anticipatory actions to avoid negative coping strategies. To provide safe and adequate water for communities and livestock, WFP installed seven boreholes in December. The implementation of other anticipatory actions on dissemination of relevant, timely and simple climate information to assist farmers in better decision-making is underway, in collaboration with the Meteorological Services Department. FbF is a mechanism whereby early preparedness and community level actions are pre-planned based on credible forecasts and are implemented before the disaster strikes.

Source: World Food Programme

COVID-19 Data Explorer: Global Humanitarian Operations Monthly Highlights, Special 2021 Edition

  • Global cases are currently rising, driven by the new and more transmissible Omicron variant. Cases in GHO countries increased in December for the first time in 8 months.
  • Countries with an inter-agency humanitarian response plan (HRP) outside of Southern Africa, where Omicron was first identified, have yet to report significant surges. Due to the limited availability of testing in HRP countries, a large proportion of Omicron cases are expected to go undetected.
  • A total of 96.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were delivered to 25 HRP countries in December 2021, the fewest doses delivered since September. COVAX delivered a record number of doses (61 million). Afghanistan received its first vaccine delivery since August, while the Central African Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Niger, and Venezuela received no new doses.

Issues to Monitor in Q1 2022:

  • The spread and impact of Omicron in HRP settings, especially those countries with the lowest vaccination coverage. – Revised IMF World Economic Outlook on the impact of Omicron on the global economy, and specifically the forecasts for humanitarian settings. These numbers are expected to be downgraded, reflecting the impact of the Omicron variant.
  • The Debt Service Suspension Initiative expired in December 2021, meaning countries which had debt repayment paused during COVID-19 now must resume servicing those debts on top of debt owed in 2022. This comes at a time when rising inflation is likely to increase interest rates, and therefore the cost of refinancing and borrowing.
  • Security Council debate expected in Q1 to review progress on the delivery of vaccines in conflict-affected settings (as a follow up to resolution 2565).
  • The supply of vaccines, including if booster doses impact global vaccine supply.

Updates to OCHA-HDX COVID-19 Data Explorer in 2022:

  • The new Global Humanitarian Overview has been released, updating the lists of GHO and HRP countries. Data on these countries will be accessible on the HDX COVID-19 Data Explorer and they will be included in all analysis going forward. For the full list of changes, see the new Global Humanitarian Overview at gho.unocha.org.
  • In 2022, highlights will be released quarterly, rather than monthly. Reports can still be accessed at the OCHAHDX COVID-19 Data Explorer and received automatically through email sign up. The first Quarterly Highlights will be released in April 2022.

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

UNICEF Rwanda Annual Humanitarian Situation Report: 31 December 2021

Through COVAX facility, UNICEF supported the delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Rwanda. Over 4.3 million people (one third of the population) have received two doses of vaccine in Rwanda.

• With UNICEF support, 7,959 children aged 0-6 years (51 per cent girls) were enrolled in ECD services in Mahama refugee camp in 2021.

• Over 2 million people were regularly reached with key messages on COVID-19 prevention and access to services.

• In 2021, UNICEF mobilized US$ 2.1 million, representing 35 per cent of the funding needed to address the urgent needs of women and children.

Situation in Numbers

2,000,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance (UNICEF 2021 HAC)

4,000,000 people in need (UNICEF 2021 HAC)

146,831 Refugees (UNHCR December 2020)

Funding Overview and Partnerships

UNICEF Rwanda, as part of its 2021 Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC), appealed for US$ 6 million to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees and to support the Government of Rwanda’s response to health crisis, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to risks of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) affecting the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2021, UNICEF Rwanda mobilized US$ 2.1 million, representing 35 per cent of required amount, which enabled UNICEF to deliver life-saving services to refugees – more than half of whom are women and children – as well as children and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impacts.

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

In 2021, two EVD outbreaks were declared in the Province of North Kivu, eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), neighbouring Rwanda. Since 2018, three EVD outbreaks have been declared in the same zone, the 2018-2020 EVD outbreak was second deadliest in Africa. Although Rwanda has so far managed to remain Ebola-free, the recurrence of EVD outbreaks in neighbouring DRC poses a significant health risk due to intense population movements between the two countries and a large cross-border community with shared culture and connections. Rwanda continues to maintain its Ebola preparedness plan.

Rwanda continues also to enforce preventing measures throughout the year to control the spread of COVID-19. Apart from January when the Government closed schools in the City of Kigali in response to an increase in COVID19 cases, schools remained open throughout 2021. In June-July, the country recorded the largest increase in COVID-19 cases leading to a lockdown in the city of Kigali and in 8 out of 30 districts of the country from 17 to 31 July. Since the start of the pandemic, Rwanda has conducted around 3.7 million tests and registered 1,344 deaths related to COVID-19. The country has managed to monitor confirmed cases and trace their contacts. With the support of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, more than 6.9 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine of whom 4.3 million (33 per cent of the population) are fully vaccinated1 . As the pandemic continues with emerging new variants, significant gap persists with regards to the coverage of WASH services in the refugee camps and host communities. Despite funding constraints, UNICEF continued to support the Government of Rwanda (GoR) to mitigate the secondary effects of COVID-19 on children and families, including by supporting remote learning during closure of schools, providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for community health workers (CHWs) and child protection volunteers, providing mental health and psychosocial support to children including those with disabilities, as well as by supporting the construction of handwashing facilities in schools.

In 2021, Rwanda continued to host tens of thousands of refugees as in the past two decades, mainly from Burundi and DRC. From 147,000 refugees in late 2020, the number of refugees decreased slightly during the year due to movements of return, especially among Burundian refugees. The latest statistics by UNHCR reports that 127,382 people, 49 per cent of whom children, are currently refugees in Rwanda, including 77,412 from DRC (61 per cent) and 48,234 (38.6 per cent) from Burundi. Nine refugees out of ten in Rwanda live in refugee camps and 10 per cent in urban areas. . In addition to refugees, Rwanda hosted during a short period around 8,000 people who crossed the border from DRC following the eruption of the Volcano Nyiragongo in June 2021 in the North Kivu province. UNICEF participated in the emergency response to volcano affected people in Rwanda under the coordination of the GoR and UNHCR. The GoR, World Bank and other partners conducted a post disaster needs assessment that revealed hundreds of house damages and families needing relocation. . Part of the UNHCR-UNICEF Blueprint for Joint Action for Refugee Children (Blueprint), UNICEF also continued to support the GoR response to refugees living in refugee camps and their host communities throughout 2021.

Source: UN Children’s Fund

WHO and IFRC partnership aims to build regional capacity in responding to key public health challenges

Cairo-Beirut – The WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari and the Regional Director of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Dr Hossam Elsharkawi, today signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance collaboration to support countries in the Middle East and North Africa respond effectively to key public health challenges.

The aims of the agreement between WHO and IFRC are to strengthen the support provided to countries in order to improve the health and well-being of populations living in emergencies, and protect and improve the health of vulnerable groups through ensuring access to essential health services, in addition to strengthening country capacity to provide access to sustainable, affordable and quality health services across the life course. The agreement also aims to strengthen leadership, governance and advocacy for health.

During the virtual ceremony, Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, expressed his appreciation of WHO’s valued partnership with IFRC. “With a long history of collaboration with IFRC and working together to serve humanity, I am confident that this joint agreement can serve as a roadmap for us to strengthen support to countries and enhance national efforts to address key public health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond in order to meet the urgent health needs of all people in the region. It is a true interpretation of our vision; health for all by all: a call for action and solidarity”.

In his opening remarks, Dr Hossam Elsharkawi, IFRC’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said, “Addressing current and future humanitarian challenges requires the strong commitment of all partners and courageous leadership that focus on locally led actions and interdependence. We are honoured to work alongside WHO and leverage our volunteer network to advance progress towards universal health coverage, strengthen emergency response and preserve the dignity of all people.”

Dr Rana Hajjeh, Director of Programme Management at the WHO Regional Office, noted that the memorandum of understanding focused on the health challenges related to emergencies such as outbreaks, epidemics and the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic has been a game changer for all countries and demonstrated the importance of effective preparedness and response to emergencies, and it has highlighted how, we as international organizations, can provide targeted support to countries to help them build capacity and strengthen community resilience.”

Rania Ahmed, Deputy Regional Director of IFRC, noted, “Today, the WHO/IFRC agreement is reaffirming our continued commitment to work together to create change that results in a positive impact on people’s lives. Our partnership emphasizes the need to develop policies that respond to community needs and promote effective community engagement and support to shape evidence-based responses that allow results at scale.”

The collaborative partnership between WHO and IFRC aims to further build on country progress to achieve universal health coverage and enhance national health systems. It focuses on strengthening regional capacity to effectively prepare for, and respond to, emergencies. One of the top priorities for WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region is to ensure and availability of mental health and other essential health services for all people, including displaced persons and refugees.

The memorandum of understanding takes immediate effect and will be implemented with the direct involvement of all national stakeholders and WHO country offices in the region. Source: World Health Organization