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In June, almost half of the globally reported cases and deaths were recorded in countries in the Global Humanitarian Overview -- almost 5 million cases and 130,000 deaths. Despite a downward trend at the global level, cases have increased 25% week-on-week for the past six weeks in Africa. In June, four GHO countries in the region faced their highest infection rates or mortality since the beginning of the pandemic. Uganda and Zambia experienced a 173 per cent and 67 per cent increase in deaths respectively in June compared to the previous month. Other countries with an inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) that are battling major surges include Afghanistan, Colombia, DRC, Haiti and Zimbabwe. It is unlikely that vaccines will arrive in meaningful quantities in 2021 to halt these surges. Public health and social measures will be the main way to counter the spread of the virus in GHO countries for the remainder of the year. At the same time, socio-economic support must be scaled-up to support governments to put in place PHSM and to mitigate the devastating impacts on vulnerable households and populations that have even less capacity to cope than last year.
At the halfway point of 2021, almost 75 per cent of GHO countries have reported more cases or deaths in 2021 than all of 2020. In over a third of those GHO countries, at least three times more cases or deaths have been recorded this year compared to last. Cases and deaths are expected to continue to escalate due to the Delta variant becoming dominant globally, low vaccination rates and insufficient or fatigue with public health and social measures. Severe outbreaks in most GHO countries are unlikely to be reflected in reported cases and deaths due to inadequate testing. For example, at the end of June, on average 28 tests per 100,000 people were being conducted in HRP countries, compared to over 400 tests in High Income Countries.
Although deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to HRP countries reached a record high in June, with almost 19 million doses delivered, approximately 75 per cent of those doses went to just two countries (Colombia, Pakistan). COVAX deliveries to HRP countries fell below 2 million, the lowest since deliveries began. WHO have set a goal to vaccinate 10 per cent of the population by September. Approximately 174 million additional doses are required for HRP countries to reach this goal -- 2.5 times the amount of vaccines delivered to date.
The administration of vaccines in humanitarian settings continues to be a challenge. Almost half of HRP countries have administered less than 50 per cent of delivered doses. Countries receiving the least number of doses have the lowest administration rates, confirming the poorest countries require much greater support to administer vaccines. Financing approved by the World Bank in June to support another 8 GHO countries to purchase and deploy vaccines, and the approval of the Gavi Board to create a COVID-19 Delivery Support envelope with at least USD775 million to support roll-out in the next 6-12 months, are welcome. It will now be essential for funds to be rapidly deployed and to be directed toward the poorest countries with the least vaccines and capacity to administer them.
Food prices are at their highest in almost a decade. In the last 3 months, the cost of a food basket in 11 HRP countries is at least 30 per cent higher when compared to the same period in the past five years. In Sudan and Syria the cost is six times more. For the most vulnerable people, they are experiencing a successive and more severe wave of the pandemic with less capacity to cope and for many in alarming states of hunger. It is critical funding for food assistance and nutrition is urgently scaled.
Last year, much of the humanitarian funding received in the second quarter of the year was related to COVID-19. This year, two-thirds of HRP countries have received less humanitarian funding compared to last year, despite more severe waves of the pandemic in most countries. COVID-19 continues to place weak health systems under pressure, disrupt services for vulnerable populations, hamper immunizations and place humanitarian and health workers at risk. Increased funding must be made available to support COVID-19 preparedness and response and to address life-saving humanitarian needs.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.