Statement on the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in Haiti

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On 24 February 2021, an employee prepares for shipment a box containing COVID-19 vaccines for the COVAX facility at a manufacturer in Pune, a city located in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

Statement on the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in Haiti

Attributable to Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

PANAMA CITY, 15 July 2021 –  Haiti was the only country in the Americas without a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. On the 14th July 500,000 doses of vaccine donated by the U.S government through COVAX landed in Port-Au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti.

In the first five months of this year, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has nearly doubled in Haiti. Amidst this recent upsurge, each of these 500,000 doses brings a ray of light to the Caribbean country, especially in times when increased urban violence threatens the well-being of children and families.

Thanks to this donation, hundreds of thousands of Haitians will receive their shots against COVID-19. Yet, despite the collective efforts to kickstart the vaccination campaign soon, most of the Haitian population is at risk of remaining unvaccinated due to the limited availability of doses currently in the country.

We hope this first donation of doses will be followed by others. More donations from well-supplied countries will be needed for Haiti and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to reach those most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

Anywhere in the world, rolling out a largescale COVID-19 vaccination campaign is a daunting task. But in the current Haitian context, it is going to be an uphill battle for our teams in the coming weeks and months.

When gangs are shooting at each other in the streets, transporting vaccines safely from one health center to the other every day is a victory. Without reliable electricity, keeping large number of vaccine doses always cool throughout the journey is a feat.

To speed up the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination campaign, UNICEF has been working around the clock to enhance transportation, increase mass communication and strengthen the cold chain across the country. In almost every single health center of Haiti, our teams have installed solar fridges to keep vaccines at the right temperature –over 900 in total.

In the context of Haiti where vaccine hesitancy is high, reaching communities with doses of vaccines doesn’t guarantee they want to get vaccinated. According to the preliminary results of a UNICEF-supported perception study conducted by the University of Haiti in June, only 22 per cent of all Haitians would accept to be vaccinated.

Together with the Haitian authorities, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and other partners, UNICEF is committed to make extra efforts in response to the long-awaited need for vaccines in Haiti until the most vulnerable groups of the population are protected against COVID-19.

As vaccines touched ground at the Port-au-Prince airport, our toughest job on the ground has yet to begin. Unless each of these 500,000 doses gets into the arms of Haitian people swiftly and safely, COVID-19 vaccines won’t help save Haitian lives and curb the spread of the pandemic in the Americas.

Last June, urban violence among armed groups escalated in several areas of the capital city during a spike of COVID-19 cases. Over 15,000 women and children have now been forced to flee their home. Rising insecurity and clashes between gangs have seriously hindered humanitarian operations in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

ABOUT UNICEF
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work for children. We also promote and protect children’s rights in the UK and internationally. We are a UK charity, entirely funded by supporters.

United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK), Registered Charity No. 1072612 (England & Wales), SC043677 (Scotland).

For more information visit unicef.org.uk. Follow UNICEF UK on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.

For more details, please contact:

Yemi Lufadeju, +44 20 7375 6199YemiL@unicef.org.uk

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030media@unicef.org.uk

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