As US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken continues his visit in Africa, the IRC calls on the US and other wealthy nations to renew efforts to address humanitarian emergencies unfolding across the continent, specifically in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sudan. While the US has donated millions of vaccines to Africa, Covid-19 vaccine supply is not the only humanitarian concern. The triple emergency of Covid, conflict and climate change is wreaking havoc, meanwhile the amount of aid and humanitarian diplomacy being dedicated to these emergencies is grossly out of sync with realities and needs on the ground. 

Amanda Catanzano, Acting Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee, said, “Despite new vaccine donations and Covid commitments from the Biden administration, more ambitious action will be needed from both the United States and other donor governments to reach 40% Covid vaccination coverage by the end of 2021 and 70% by mid-2022 across Africa, particularly in the continent’s fragile and conflict settings that are already being left behind. Frontline NGOs, who can reach where governments and health systems cannot, need to have faster and easier access to funding from donors to help support vaccine delivery in the hardest to reach contexts. Just five African countries, less than 10% of Africa’s 54 nations, are projected to hit the year-end 40% coverage target. At the current pace, Africa still faces a 275 million shortfall of COVID-19 vaccines to reach that target.

“Knock-on climate-related events, including locust infestations, droughts, and extreme weather events are driving unprecedented need on the continent. And while Covid vaccinations can help stem the virus, the pandemic’s impact on rising food prices and overburdening health systems is worsening and requires broader solutions beyond  vaccine donations. In Kenya specifically, the healthcare system was already overwhelmed and the pandemic has corresponded with worsened malaria and cholera outbreaks in Dadaab and Kakuma. Refugee families in Kakuma live together in small tents and makeshift homes and are confined together in small spaces without access to proper water, sanitation and hygiene, making the conditions ripe for the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.

“Increased aid dollars to address knock-on effects of climate change, conflict and Covid are long overdue. Covid vaccine donations are simply not enough to address ongoing humanitarian emergencies with multiple root causes.”