In this file photo dated March 15, 2021, boxes of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative arrive at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia. (FARAH ABDI WARSAMEH / FILE / AP)
MOGADISHU – Somalia and two agencies of the United Nations on Sunday vowed to intensify efforts to scale up COVID-19 vaccination across the country amid a severe drought that is ravaging several parts of the country.
The Somali ministry of health, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF said some of the challenges slowing down COVID-19 vaccination in Somalia include limited access to specific areas due to insecurity or logistical challenges.
The humanitarian situation calls for urgent measures to scale up COVID-19 vaccination and other lifesaving humanitarian assistance, especially for internally displaced persons, rural communities, and nomads.
Wafaa Saeed Abdelatef, UNICEF Representative in Somalia
UNICEF Representative in Somalia Wafaa Saeed Abdelatef said the government has made tangible progress in procuring safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
"The humanitarian situation calls for urgent measures to scale up COVID-19 vaccination and other lifesaving humanitarian assistance, especially for internally displaced persons, rural communities, and nomads," Saeed said in a joint statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
She said UNICEF will continue to work closely with the government and partners to ensure communities are aware of the benefits of being vaccinated.
The joint statement came after Somalia on Saturday received 1.64 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from Sweden and the Czech Republic, donated through the COVAX Facility.
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So far, around 2.3 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and more than 1.9 million people are partially vaccinated, according to the ministry of health.
Somali Minister of Health and Human Services Ali Haji Adam Abubakar said the vaccines the ministry has received will save lives, enable them to create more equity between Somalis of different backgrounds, and contribute to the national health goals. "This is even more important now as the country faces a severe drought and mass displacement, leaving more people vulnerable to diseases."
The ongoing drought has brought the country to the brink of famine and left 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, and around 1 million people internally displaced.
WHO Representative in Somalia Mamunur Rahman Malik said about 15 percent of Somalia's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far and 12 percent are partially vaccinated.
Malik said the government and donors including other partners have used creative ways and impactful innovations to reach the most vulnerable people, prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and leverage these efforts to rebuild health systems.
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"However, we still have a long way to go. Somalia's aim is to vaccinate at least 40 percent of people by the end of 2022," he added