Remarks by Dr. Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative in Uganda
UNICEF is the largest single buyer of vaccines in the world. Each year, we procure more than two billion doses of vaccines on behalf of nearly 100 countries, including Uganda.
One of our greatest achievements here in Uganda has been supporting the Ministry of Health to keep huge numbers of children alive and thriving. Over the past 20 years, we’ve helped reduce Uganda’s under-five mortality rate by more than half through immunizations and other life-saving investments in the health sector.
And since the emergence of COVID-19, UNICEF has led the global effort to procure COVID vaccines through the COVAX Facility, while supporting countries around the world with freight, logistics, and storage.
That last part is what brings us all here today.
When we talk about vaccines, most of us tend to think of the jab, the painful arm. But it’s so much more than just that.
Protecting people against vaccine-preventable diseases requires having the right quantities of vaccines at the right time in the right dose and potency. We also need to be able to reach all the people in the country. Doing that requires a network of cold chain equipment and support infrastructure, such as reliable electricity.
Most of us don’t realize how important fridges and generators are in keeping children protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, and keeping all of us — including people my age! — protected from COVID-19. But this kind of equipment, and these kinds of investments, are the cornerstone of so many of the greatest medical achievements that we have witnessed in the modern era.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be here this morning to participate in handing over this equipment to strengthen Uganda’s cold chain infrastructure. I am very pleased to inform you that all the equipment has reached Uganda in good order and that some of the items are on display here [point to the display].
We want to express our deep gratitude to the Government of Japan for providing this support to Uganda’s Expanding Programme on Immunization through an emergency grant that supports not only children’s vaccinations, but also Uganda’s ongoing work to vaccinate the country against COVID-19. Today’s handover covers a large quantity of cold chain equipment totaling more than 1 million US dollars, or more than 3.7 billion Ugandan shillings.
Our shipments include the following:
- Over 2,160 vaccine carriers and cold boxes to support community-based outreaches in remote areas
- 115 solar-powered fridges that operate off-grid
- 6 generators to support infrastructure that relies on traditional energy sources
- 145 kits for district cold-chain teams to maintain their solar-powered equipment
- UNICEF is proud to say that, because of this generous grant from the Government of Japan, Ugandan communities will be receiving some of the most reliable cold-chain equipment available, including new solar-powered technology that operates without the cost of additional power or fuel. This is extremely important. It means we can reach more people in some of the least served communities across the country.
I wish to thank the Ministry of Health for organizing this function and for its steadfast and effective response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This is a unique opportunity to build the systems we need to prevent future pandemics and disease outbreaks, while ensuring that communities across Uganda have access to essential healthcare.
UNICEF remains committed to working closely with the Ministry of Health, the Government of Japan, the National Medical Stores, other sister UN agencies, development partners, civil society, the private sector, and most importantly, families and communities across Uganda to ensure that current and future generations are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Together we can make that happen.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/uganda
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