By Christopher Bendana
The world needs an estimated US$ 35 billion to marshal the resources needed to quickly fight and end the COVID-19 according to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator Facilitation Council.
The ACT- Accelerator was formed in April by the World Health Organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Union, and France.
It major goal is to engage in global collaboration and accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
A press statement released after its inaugural meeting on Thursday 10 September the Accelerator asked for more resources to help it achieve its goal.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres who gave the keynote address highlighted the need for immediate funding,
“We now need US$35 billion more to go from set-up to scale and impact. There is a real urgency in these numbers. Without an infusion of US$15 billion over the next 3 months, beginning immediately, we will lose the window of opportunity,” he implored.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who co-hosted the inaugural meeting linked the immediate need for funding to the large number of deaths from COVID-19.
“Nearly 5,000 lives are lost each day due to COVID-19 and the global economy is expected to contract by trillions of dollars this year. The case for investing to end the pandemic has never been stronger. The ACT Accelerator is the best way to ensure equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, but at present is facing a financing gap of US$35 billion. Fully financing the ACT-Accelerator would shorten the pandemic and pay back this investment rapidly as the global economy recovers,” he said.
His Co-host and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen pledged European Union’s support to the initiative.
“Today’s launch of the Facilitation Council brings us closer to our global goal: access to coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments for everyone who needs them, anywhere. The EU will use all its convening power to help keep the world united against coronavirus. With the chairmanship of Norway and South Africa representing the global North and South, and the expertise of the WHO and our international partners, no country or region will be left behind in this fight,” she said.
With the absence of the United States at the helm of global health, experts believe the EU can take the lead in the fight against the pandemic.
For his part the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who co-chaired the meeting with Erna Solberg the Norwegian Prime Minister called for universal access of the vaccine.
“It is essential that humanity should have a sense that if and when a vaccine is developed, all countries, including my own continent, Africa, should benefit and not be left behind. Humanity requires that a vaccine should be regarded as a public good to benefit all. We cannot achieve Universal Health Coverage when a COVID-19 vaccine is available only to countries that are well-resourced,” he said.
Access of the COVID-19 vaccine has already become a concern for many global experts as rich countries in the north rush to do pre-vaccine payments.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame whose country has been international praised for handling the pandemic despite meager resources called for more investment in the public health infrastructure.
“This is certainly one of the most important initiatives underway in the world today and perhaps ever”. He added “The difference between success and failure lies in building a robust public health infrastructure that can confront any health issue in a sustainable manner. Solid health systems combined with transformational partnerships such as this Accelerator are critical.”
Many African countries have failed to meet their commitment to the Abuja Declaration which called for the allocation of 15% of national budgets to the health sector hence health systems on the continent are frail.
“This is certainly one of the most
H.E Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, one of the largest donor on global social issues gave an opportunistic assessment,
“The ACT-Accelerator has already achieved impressive results. The world has shown that it is able to come together at a time of crisis. Norway will work tirelessly to ensure that common interests are established and followed and that all countries and actors are listened to so that we can maximize our result together,” she said.