Rising coronavirus cases in South Asia underline need for vaccine equity

29 June 2021

Food and hygiene packages are distributed

Food and hygiene packages have been distributed to vulnerable families in Batticaloa, Hatton and Mannar districts of Sri Lanka as part of the coronavirus response.

CAFOD is alarmed at the rapidly increasing number of Covid cases across Nepal and Sri Lanka, which is overwhelming the healthcare systems in both countries. 

What is the current situation in Nepal?

Nepal is now described as the next Covid hotspot in the region, with cases surging by the day. A few months ago, there were an average of 200 daily cases and now that number stands at an estimated 8,000 daily cases, the highest infection rate in the world. 

“Nepal is quickly becoming a pandemic hot spot as Nepalese migrants return home from neighbouring India, which is in the midst of its own crisis."

Statement by Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is working to support Nepalese local governments in building quarantine centres, and the huge needs of families affected by the lockdown by providing food and hygiene supplies.

They told us:  

“Nepal is quickly becoming a pandemic hot spot as Nepalese migrants return home from neighbouring India, which is in the midst of its own crisis. In Kathmandu, there are long lines in hospitals and pharmacies. Cremation centres around the country are filling up fast, and family members are unable to properly perform last rites. The virus is spreading here like wildfire.”

The Covid vaccine supply that the country was relaying on has dried up, after India stopped all vaccine exports at the end of March.  

CAFOD has pledged £35,000 to our partners, Caritas Nepal and Catholic Relief Service, to contribute to their coronavirus response in Nepal. This will support them in the distribution of essential supplies to health centres, including oxygen and PPE, as well as distribution of home isolation kits. In addition to this, the funds will support the running of public health messaging around coronavirus so that people can access  accurate information which will help them survive the pandemic.

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What is the current situation in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is currently grappling with a third wave of infections and has recorded over 80,000 new infections since 15 April. The death toll, which stood at 678 by 30 April, increased by over 750, recording an over 100 per cent jump by the end of May, according to Sri Lankan health officials. 

"Although vaccinations have begun, the process is stuttering due to problems werith supply and fair distribution."

Statement by Caritas Sri Lanka

Caritas Sri Lanka say:

“The situation in Sri Lanka is quite critical with community transmission rising rapidly, despite a strict lockdown. Although vaccinations have begun, the process is stuttering due to problems with supply and fair distribution.  

“We know that hospitals desperately need more oxygen machines and PPE. While families reliant on daily wages, locked down in their houses, desperately need relief rations to survive. 

“The government is now seeking assistance to obtain more healthcare supplies to meet the increasing demand of hospitals fighting to treat Covid-19 patients.”

What is CAFOD doing to bring about vaccine equity?

CAFOD, along with other faith charities, has been on the frontline campaigning to push for vaccine equity. We are calling for a patent waiver, so that vaccine technology can be shared globally along with the billions of doses being hoarded by rich countries, and for the financing of vaccine roll out programmes including COVAX.  

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