Lebanon: the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 affected by the leap of the deputies
Lebanese MPs’ ‘Serious Breach’ Could Lead to Suspension of World Bank Funding for Immunization Program
* World Bank threatens to withdraw funding for immunization
* Rights activists say dispute will weaken public confidence
* Incident fuels concerns over access to vaccines for vulnerable people
By Timour Azhari
BEIRUT, February 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A row over Lebanese lawmakers skipping the queue for COVID-19 vaccinations erupted on Tuesday, with the World Bank threatening to withdraw funding for the vaccination campaign and human rights activists accusing the authorities of mismanagement.
The spat burst after a correspondent for the Thomson Reuters Foundation tweeted confirmation from the Secretary General of Parliament that lawmakers over the age of 75 would be vaccinated Tuesday in Beirut.
This led the World Bank’s regional manager for the Middle East, Saroj Kumar Jha, to reply: “This is not in line with the national plan agreed with @WorldBank and we would record non-compliance with the terms and conditions agreed with. us for a fair and equitable vaccination. “
He added that the lender “could suspend funding for vaccines and support for the COVID19 response across Lebanon !!” if the violation was confirmed.
Last month the the bank agreed to grant Lebanon a loan of 34 million dollars to fund vaccinations for about a third of the country’s six million people, amid a surge in new cases of COVID-19 that he said was exacerbating a deep economic crisis.
Lebanon launched vaccinations on February 14, prioritizing health workers and those over 75 who have registered on an online platform.
But During the first week of deployment, 40% of vaccination sites violated these regulations, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is monitoring the vaccination campaign with the World Bank.
This sparked fears of favoritism in a country that consistently ranks among the most corrupt in the world, and rights groups have warned that Tuesday’s incident would further damage public confidence in the immunization program and state institutions.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the COVID crisis, the confidence of the Lebanese public in government institutions was extremely low,” said Lama Fakih, director of crisis and conflict in Beirut at Human Rights Watch.
“It has only diminished given the mismanagement of this crisis,” she said.
A total of 16 MPs (MPs) and five parliamentary staff received their vaccines on Tuesday, Secretary General Adnan Daher said.
He first said that there had been no violation of the program’s rules, but then admitted that some members of the group were in fact under the age of 75 and therefore were not in the priority group.
The head of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination committee, Abdel-Rahman Bizri, said earlier he would resign following the incident, but then vowed to stay to prevent the vaccination program from failing. collapse.
He told a press conference that MPs jumping in line was “a serious offense that cannot be repeated”.
Vaccinations from lawmakers have also fueled fears that vulnerable groups – such as thousands of migrant workers and a million refugees – may be left behind.
“Although (the authorities) say they will cover everyone in Lebanon, the plans in place will not allow this to happen,” Fakih said, noting that a government warrant to bring ID for vaccination could lead to the exclusion of undocumented people.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon have died from COVID-19 at a rate more than four times the national average, around 4.5% compared to around 1% nationally, according to UN data obtained exclusively by the Thomson Foundation Reuters.
With nine in ten refugees living in extreme poverty, a spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Lebanon said fear of movement restrictions and other socio-economic considerations were likely to blame.
Lebanon has had one of the highest infection rates in the region, and ordinary citizens have taken to social media to express their anger and frustration at the pace of the vaccination program and the events from Tuesday to Friday. parliament.
“My 92-year-old grandfather, who uses an oxygen machine, hasn’t received any text messages yet and they get theirs! Shit!” Twitter user Jessica Kassab wrote.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust .org)
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