• With $96 million, the equivalent of 0.006% of the US’ health budget and 0.04% of the UK’s, the IRC could vaccinate nearly 16 million people affected by humanitarian crises or conflict.

  • Half of the countries on the IRC’s 2022 Emergency Watchlist — the countries at greatest risk of experiencing a deteriorating crisis in 2022 — have vaccinated less than 10% of their populations.

  • The countries left furthest behind include Democratic Republic of Congo (0.8%), Haiti (1%), Yemen (2%), and South Sudan (4%).

  • Comparatively, roughly half of the populations in the UK (55.8%), Sweden (56.7%), Belgium (60.2%), and Germany (55.9%) have received booster shots.

  • Persistent vaccine inequity is not only unjust but also dangerous. The Omicron variant emerged from a low vaccination setting to claim more than half a million lives worldwide. Future variants could be even more contagious and/or more deadly.

  • IRC is calling for an urgent whole of society response to meet the WHO target of 70% vaccine coverage by mid 2022. This includes immediate funding for delivery to both governments and NGOs to maximize reach.

Two years after the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and more than one year since the world began vaccinating against the disease, people living in the world’s worst crisis zones are left behind, warns the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

While more than 60% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, that number drops to just 10% for low-income countries. Countries on the IRC’s 2022 Emergency Watchlist are being left even further behind with Democratic Republic of Congo (0.8%), Haiti (1%), Yemen (2%), and South Sudan (4%) seeing some of the lowest vaccination rates in the world—while several rich countries have given booster shots to more than half of their populations. With 96 million USD, the equivalent of just 0.006% of the US healthcare budget and 0.04% of the UK’s health budget, the IRC could provide COVID-19 vaccines to almost 16 million people living in the areas we work in — including in the world’s worst crisis zones.[1] Yet, NGOs like the IRC are currently left on the sidelines, not receiving the necessary funding to be significantly engaged in the delivery effort.

David Miliband, President and CEO at the International Rescue Committee, said:

“The global response to COVID-19 is yet another example of System Failure. We continue to miss vaccine coverage targets to our peril with the Omicron variant a direct result of our delay. We have failed to distribute sufficient vaccine doses to lower income countries and we have failed to invest in the health systems needed to deliver shots into arms as soon as they become available.

The inadequacy of our global response, particularly in terms of collective leadership and resource allocation, has never been more apparent or more dangerous. As a member of the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, I argued for the need to elevate pandemic threats to the highest levels of government. This is the context for our proposal for a Global Health Threats Council (GHTC) to ensure coordination, accountability, and appropriate resources for pandemic preparedness and response. This leader-level Council would not only maintain political momentum of the highest order in preparing for and fighting pandemics, it would also oversee a new financing stream — a multilateral Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) — to fill significant gaps in resources.”

To effectively deliver and administer COVID-19 vaccines to populations affected by conflict and humanitarian crises, the IRC calls for: 

1. Mobilizing more resources for delivery costs. The $1.5 billion request from the Gavi COVAX Advanced Market Commitment — the financial mechanism that aims to ensure the world’s lowest-income countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines — does not account for full delivery costs in humanitarian contexts, and more funding is urgently needed to move doses from ports into the arms of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Using the IASC standard of $3.00 per dose to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine in humanitarian settings, the IRC has estimated that $96 million is needed to deliver vaccines to nearly 16 million people they serve across 30 countries. With approximately 60-80 million people living in non-government  controlled areas, this sum is just a fraction of the total delivery costs required to vaccinate 70% of each country’s population in 2022.

2. Increasing funding for frontline organizations. Community organizations and local and international NGOs have the reach to deliver vaccine services where governments cannot. These frontline groups need to have faster and easier access to global funding and vaccines to effectively support delivery in the hardest to reach contexts.

The IRC additionally calls for the establishment of a Global Health Threats Council at the leadership level of government. The Threats Council would be able to mobilize a whole-of-government approach, maintain political commitment, drive adequate financing, and prepare and coordinate a global response to defend against future outbreaks and pandemics.


[1]The IRC has estimated, using the IASC’s standard of $3.00 per dose to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine in humanitarian contexts, that $96 million is needed to deliver and administer vaccines to nearly 16 million people in IRC’s target population — individuals over the age of 15 and/or are high risk in the IRC’s health catchment areas — across 30 countries.