UN warns 2021 to be humanitarian catastrophe, poor could be ‘trampled’ amid vaccine push

The next year is going to be “humanitarian catastrophe” and there is a risk of poor countries being “trampled” as rich countries roll out Covid-19 vaccines, top UN officials told the 193-member UN General Assembly on Friday.

World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley and World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke during a special meeting on the coronavirus situation.

“2021 is literally going to be catastrophic based on what we’re seeing at this stage of the game,” David Beasley said, news agency Reuters reported.

2021 was likely to be “the worst humanitarian crisis year since the beginning of the United Nations” 75 years ago, Beasley said.

“We are not going to be able to fund everything, so we have to prioritise, as I say, the icebergs in front of the Titanic,” Beasley said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who also spoke at the virtual UN summit on the coronavirus pandemic, said the world was seeing “light at the end of the tunnel” in the nearly year-long Covid crisis, according to news agency AFP.

“But let me be clear. We simply cannot accept a world in which the poor and marginalized are trampled by the rich and powerful in the stampede for vaccines,” Tedros said.

Tedros also warned of other world challenges and said: “There is no vaccine for poverty, no vaccine for hunger. There is no vaccine for inequality. There is no vaccine for climate change.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his top officials have also called for Covid-19 vaccines to be made available to all and for rich countries to help developing countries combat and recover from the pandemic.

Britain has become the first Western nation to approve a vaccine for Covid-19, with the United States and other countries expected to follow soon and begin mass immunisation drives.

A UN-backed Covax consortium has been set up to provide vaccines equitably around the world.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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