A spokesperson for United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed that the Secretary-General is “extremely grateful” after India granted UN peacekeepers 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar announced the gift during a meeting of the UN Security Council. India, Jaishankar said, has already supplied vaccines to 25 countries and anticipates to ship more doses in the days to come.
“The pharmacy of the world is stepping forward to meet the global vaccines challenge,” Jaishankar said. “We are, of course, a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility. But in addition, India is also directly sending vaccines to friends and partners.” The COVAX facility is an initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and Gavi to ensure low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have access to vaccines amidst growing concerns over unequal access to vaccines at LMICs’ expense.
“Starting with our immediate neighbours, 25 nations across the world have already received Made in India vaccines,” Jaishankar outlined. “49 more countries will be supplied in the coming days, ranging from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Keeping in mind the UN Peacekeepers who operate in such difficult circumstances, we would like to announce today a gift of 200,000 doses for them.”
The UN has stated that “peacekeeping missions are putting in place a series of mitigation measures to promote the safety, security and health of all UN personnel while maintaining continuity of operations. Leadership is in regular contact with troop- and police- contributing countries and working closely with the Department of Operational Support, the Office of Military Affairs and the Police Division to monitor the situation and advise governments according to the latest developments.”
The impact of COVID-19 on those affected by conflict is substantial. Research published last month by The Lancet outlined that “new health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and new capabilities, such as modern trauma care, have also created new challenges and opportunities for humanitarian health provision” as it found “the number of women and children affected by armed conflict has grown steadily since 2000, due to a combination of increasing population sizes, urbanisation of many conflicts, and a steady rate of conflict events around the world.
“In 2017, at least 630 million women and children—ten percent of women and sixteen percent of children worldwide— were either displaced by conflict or resided dangerously close to armed conflict events.”
As such, the role of peacekeepers is vital. COVID-19 and conflict zones are, as UNICEF states, “a deadly combination” with the pandemic serving to “[deepen] acute food insecurity in countries already under intense strain, leaving millions of children at risk of famine – and their futures in jeopardy.” Without vaccinations, exiting the pandemic is out of reach for economically vulnerable countries and especially those ravaged by conflict. India is positioned to assert a centric role in inoculating the global population against COVID-19; its vaccines commitment to UN peacekeepers reflects its role in the pandemic era.