The European Commission has announced a €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa.
The Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who made the announcement said almost 70 air bridge flights fully funded by the EU have so far delivered over 1,150 tons of medical equipment as well as nearly 1,700 medical and humanitarian staff and other passengers to different locations in the world.
In Africa, he said the flights have aided the African Union, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan.
The Humanitarian Air Bridge is a key part of EU efforts in scaling up its humanitarian engagement in Africa since the onset COVID-19 crisis.
This is an integrated set of services enabling the delivery of humanitarian assistance to countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The air bridge carries medical equipment, and humanitarian cargo and staff, providing humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable populations where the pandemic imposes constraints on transport and logistics.
Mr von der Leyen said the rollout campaigns are spearheaded by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
Subject to the agreement of the budgetary authority, the EU Commission President said this funding would support the vaccination campaigns in countries with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems.
Also, he said the funding would, among other things, contribute to ensuring the cold chains, roll-out registration programmes, training of medical and support staff as well as logistics.
This latest funding comes on top of €2.2 billion provided by Team Europe to COVAX.
President of the European Commission, Mr von der Leyen said.
“We’ve always been clear that the pandemic won’t end until everyone is protected globally. The EU stands ready to support the vaccination strategies in our African partners with experts and deliveries of medical supplies at the request of the African Union,” he said.
“We are also exploring potential support to boost local production capacities of vaccines under licensing arrangements in Africa. This would be the fastest way to ramp up production everywhere to the benefit of those that most need it,” he added.
The Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “The international vaccine solidarity was a must if we are to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic. We are looking at ways to use our humanitarian aid and civil protection tools to help in the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa.
“Ensuring equitable access to vaccines for vulnerable people, including in hard-to-access areas, is a moral duty. We will build on our valuable experience in delivering humanitarian aid in a challenging environment, for example via the Humanitarian Air Bridge flights.”
For the Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen: “Team Europe has stood by the side of our African partners from the onset of the pandemic and will continue to do so.
“We have already mobilized more than €8 billion to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. We are strengthening health systems and preparedness capacities, which is absolutely key to ensure effective vaccination campaigns. And we are now exploring support through the new NDICI and how to leverage investments in the local production capacities through the External Action Guarantee.”
The EU also has a range of instruments at its disposal, such as the EU Humanitarian Air bridge, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, and the EU’s humanitarian budget. These tools have been used extensively in the context of COVID-19 to deliver crucial material and logistical assistance to partners in Africa.
Mr von der Leyen said the Commission was also currently exploring opportunities to support African countries in the medium term to establish local or regional production capacity of health products, in particular vaccines and protective equipment.
This support, he said will come under the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and the European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+).