UNICEF chief urges global leaders to support India as Covid-19 cases soar

Henrietta H. Fore wearing a suit and tie © The Independent Singapore Henrietta H. Fore wearing a suit and tie © The Independent Singapore

In an interview with CNBC, Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said the UN agency is “very worried” about the current Covid-19 crisis in India and urged the world to send urgent help to the country.

Speaking during World Immunisation Week (April 24 to 30), she also added that it was a “race to save lives” through vaccinations, particularly in some of the world’s poorest countries with “very fragile” health systems.

Currently, India has over 20 million cases, and recorded over 222,000 deaths, which Ms Fore says “raises alarm bells” for the world.

“It is worrying for several reasons. One, is it a precursor to what might happen in other countries, particularly countries in Africa, with much weaker healthcare systems,” she said, adding: “Their health care system has been overwhelmed. It is the need for oxygen and therapeutics that we just have not seen in this pandemic in another country at this scale.”

Ms Fore said both Unicef and the Covax global vaccine programme had sent help to India, and aid from other nations was making a big difference. “But it’s not enough because India is part of our supply chain. So, it is both where we source many of the vaccines, it’s also where we need to give help as a world to India now,” she added.

Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide. Covax,  whose full name is Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

According to the UNICEF website, Unicef has provided oxygen supplies and other critically needed emergency equipment to support the immediate response, while also supporting resilience-building against recurrent shocks and stresses to the health system that leave children and their families at risk.

Unicef has supplied Covid-19 testing machines, which form a crucial part of the response to the pandemic, and is also supporting the procurement and installation of 25 oxygen plants for hospitals in the northeast and in Maharashtra.

The organisation shared that it needs $21 million for the urgent delivery of additional testing equipment, supplies and oxygen products in India, and more than $50 million for lifesaving Covid-19 interventions across sectors.

Covax is also asking for an additional $23 billion. The amount “sounds like an enormous amount, but really, when you look at global GDP and what is available in the world, it’s a very small number,” Fore appealed, pointing out that “as a world we can afford this”.

Denise Teh is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISG

UNICEF chief urges global leaders to support India as Covid-19 cases soar