I thank the United Kingdom for arranging this important debate on COVID-19 vaccination in contexts of conflict affected areas during its presidency. I thank the briefers for sharing their insights on the challenges of COVID-19 vaccination in conflict situations and how to minimize those.
The devastating impact of COVID-19 has affected the health and livelihood of all. We are going through a testing time. With more than 2.4 million deaths and over 110 million confirmed cases, and a global economic impact that has triggered the worst recession since World War II, this pandemic has left its mark on every single one of us. However, despite the enormous scale of the challenges, the world has also witnessed a new era in international cooperation, scientific collaboration and recognition of frontline workers. The role of peacekeepers in offering various types of support to local communities, including women and children, as they strived to prevent the spread of the virus is widely recognized and appreciated.
We extend our thanks to the leadership of the United Nations, particularly the Secretary General, for his leadership and efforts in the maintenance of international peace and security during these trying times. His ‘Global Ceasefire Appeal’ at the start of the pandemic was also a timely and bold initiative. Bangladesh supported the appeal and was a co-lead of a group of cross-regional countries in issuing a statement supporting the appeal, which received overwhelming support from over 170 countries.
I also commend the UN Department of Peace Operations and Department of Operational Support for their timely actions in addressing the concerns raised by TPCCs with regard to the safety and security of peacekeepers. We remain engaged with them, as we are yet to overcome the additional challenges that the pandemic situation brings.
Finally, global COVID-19 vaccination drives have started with the promise of bringing this crisis to an end. Yet, there are many challenges. I would like to mention a few of them:
First, although developments towards vaccines were undoubtedly very encouraging, the roll out of vaccines throughout the world are not satisfactory. It rather perpetuates the existing inequalities and exclusion. It is particularly important to ensure that the vaccines would be made available to all. Rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for people all across the world, regardless of their ability to pay should be ensured. We need global commitment to treat Covid-19 vaccine as a ‘global public good’.
Global solidarity and collaboration have been key to the COVID-19 response. As we recover and rebuild, we need to show once again the global solidarity and collaboration. We need to ensure that no one is left behind. This is vital because unless everyone is protected from COVID-19, we all remain at risk.
Second, COVAX is an unprecedented example of global solidarity and a global solution to a global pandemic. Necessary funding to COVAX should be ensured to reduce the gap in ‘vaccine divide’ that we are currently witnessing between developed and developing countries. This is crucial to fulfill the goal of COVAX to deliver by 2021 two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, including vulnerable groups and marginalized people in fragile situations. Additional funding to the COVAX facility will also help expand provision of vaccines for emergency and humanitarian use.
Third, health systems around the world were not prepared to deal with the pandemic, nor have they been resilient enough to mitigate its impacts. The situation in conflict affected areas are graver. For people living in conflict affected areas, access to basic health services is often challenging. These populations deserve to be protected from this pandemic. They must also be included in national vaccination programmes and be recognized as people in need of the health protections the vaccine will provide.
Bangladesh is committed to contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security. We are presently the highest contributor of troops and police in UN peacekeeping operations. We have taken all measures to protect our peacekeepers from getting infected and are vigilant so that they are prevented from exposing themselves from COVID-19 in mission areas. These measures include proper supply of PPE, pre-departure COVID testing and awareness about the health and hygiene. Now that vaccines are available in Bangladesh, we will ensure that all peacekeepers get vaccination prior to their deployment to the mission areas.
In the context of conflict affected areas, we remain concerned about accessibility of vaccines to the peacekeeping personnel who are already in the mission areas. We urge the United Nations to make sure that an inclusive system is put in place to provide for early vaccination of our peacekeepers, and other UN frontline workers. The United Nations should take all measures to arrange vaccines in mission areas including, if required, deployment of more healthcare workers who can implement the vaccination programmes to the peacekeepers and other vulnerable population in the fragile and conflict affected areas. This is also key to the implementation of UNSC resolution 2532.
I wish to reiterate in this context, that it is important to include in the mandates of future peace operations, necessary resources for dealing with such health and other emergencies.
In this regard, we greatly welcome the announcement made by the Government of India to provide 200,000 doses of vaccines for UN peacekeepers. We thank India for their continued solidarity and support through ‘Vaccine Maitri’ to come forward in protecting the peacekeepers.
I thank you, Mr. President.