Since the introduction of a two-year project funded by the European Union about four months ago, there has been a rise in COVID-19 vaccination coverage in some of the most vulnerable humanitarian settings in Africa. At the beginning of 2022, the COVID-19 vaccination rate in about 16 participating countries was below 5 percent, but currently, the rate has risen to almost 30 percent among 14 of the 16 countries whose data was ready in January 2023. This percent is considered the continent’s average.
The African countries participating in the E16 million grant project of the European Union include Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, South Sudan and Tanzania. National health workers who have undergone training by WHO experts have been ensuring administration of vaccines in urban areas, refugees and displacement camps, workplaces, remote villages, public spaces and many other places to increase the number of vaccinated people.
80% of the Liberian population has been fully vaccinated.
Daré Rabiou, regional director of public health, population and social affairs in Maradi, Niger, states that they do not just sit and wait for people to come to the vaccination sites. They visit the rural areas to ensure vaccination of the rural population without them having to travel and leave their precious field works behind. A nurse at a health center in Kouroungoussao, Rachida Ibrahim, added that health workers vaccinate people against COVID-19 in the morning after which they head into villages to vaccinate people when there’s no one left to vaccinate in the health center.
As a matter of fact, some of the target countries among the 16 participating countries now have an higher rate of fully vaccinated people than Africa’s average. These countries are Nigeria, Somalia, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Guinea. In Liberia, about 80 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated with the help of health authorities and WHO staff who worked together with community mobilizers on outreach strategies which included vaccination campaigns in outdoor markets.
Vaccination campaigns helped increase the coverage rates of countries.
A community mobilizer in Liberia, Jerry Barway, explained how he went from house to house in a community, meeting and emphasizing the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine to members of every household. Also, in Somalia, over 40 percent of the people were fully vaccinated at the end of 2022. Among this set of people included, refugees, nomads, and people who lived in displacement camps, mostly regarded as the hardest to reach communities. Currently, project teams have fully vaccinated close to half of the internally displaced people in Somalia.
From the beginning of the project, focus has been placed on the most vulnerable such as older people, health workers and people living through humanitarian crises. According to project data, nine of the participating countries has 56 percent of people living in refugees and displacement camps and their host communities fully vaccinated. After vaccination campaigns that were conducted from September to December 2022, many countries had a rise in their coverage rates. In Cameroon, the number of vaccinated people increased after a mass-vaccination campaign in November 2022.
Number of trained health workers has increased from 130,000 to 1.5M.
Additionally, Mozambique has also has a success story concerning the COVID vaccination as almost two-thirds of its population has received full vaccination. Regarding the health workers, there was a rise in the number of health workers trained for administration of COVID-19 vaccines from about 130,000 to over 1.5 million at the end of January 2023. In late 2022, there was a deployment of about 1000 health workers in South Sudan for the sake of raising the COVID-19 vaccination coverage rate from one of the lowest in the world to about 20 percent.