WHO seeks $11. 5 billion in urgent funding to fight COVID - 19


WHO needs $11.5 bln urgently to fight Delta variants?

BRUSSELS, Aug 3 - The World Health Organization is seeking $11.5 billion in urgent funding to fight the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus, a draft report by Reuters shows, amid worries rich nations are partly bypassing its COVID - 19 programmes.

A large part of the cash is requested from WHO partner countries to buy tests, oxygen and face masks in poorer countries, says the document which is expected to be released this week. And a quarter of it would be to buy hundreds of millions of vaccines for them, which would otherwise go elsewhere.

The paper, still subject to changes, outlines the results and financial needs of the Access to COVID 19 Tools Accelerator, the programme co-led by the WHO to distribute fairly COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests across the world.

The programme, set up at the start of the pandemic, remains vastly underfunded and its coordinators are now acknowledging it will remain so as many governments look to address global COVID needs differently, an ACT-A official told Reuters speaking on condition of anonymity.

As a result, it has cut its total request for funds by nearly $5 billion, the document shows. A final $16.8 billion is needed, but is just as much as what was raised so far, and $7.7 billion is urgently required.

The document also calls for a further $3.8 billion, on top of the $7.7 billion, to take up options for 760 million doses of COVID - 19 vaccines that would be delivered next year.

These options to buy in the coming months need to be lost or vaccine doses will be exercised, the document warns.

Last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that $7.7 billion were urgently needed, but did not give a breakdown of planned spending and did not say how much extra money was needed for vaccines.

The WHO was not immediately available to comment.

The latest cash crunch will underscore concerns about the long-term future of the programme, which has struggled to secure supplies and equipment to tame a pandemic that has killed more than 4.2 million.

The vaccine portion of the project, called COVAX, is increasingly dependent on donations from wealthy nations rather than its own supplies, after key manufacturer India restricted exports of shots to boost domestic vaccinations.

The United States, European Union and Japan have also direct injected countries into their vaccine diplomacy drives. Japan has also said that it is a faster process than going through COVAX.

Some countries also provide equipment direct to others. Last month, Australia said it would donate oxygen-related equipment, antigen test kits and vaccines to Indonesia.

The plea for cash comes when a review of the ACT-A gets underway, with France, Germany and Canada among the countries steering the process. A report on the programme's results and deficiencies was expected by consulting Dalberg Global Development Advisors in September, the ACT-A official said.

From ACT-A s need for oxygen to treat very ill COVID - 19 patients in poorer countries where supplies are low, the report says.

Oxygen has moved up the priority list since vaccines are not available, the ACT-A official said, highlighting the repercussions from the shortage of shots as the Delta variant spreads to 132 countries.

COVAX has delivered about 180 million vaccines, far short of its 2 billion goal by the end of this year.

Oxygen is needed to control Delta death surges caused by exponential delta variant, says the document.

The global demand for medical oxygen is more than a dozen times greater than before the pandemic, but many countries have struggled to access sufficient supplies.

The urgent need for the most basic treatment against COVID - 19 one and a half years into the pandemic shows how little is done in most of the world to combat the virus, the ACT-A official said, noting: There hasn't been much progress. What was urgent 3 months ago is now urgent.

Inequity in access to life-saving COVID 19 tools has never been more apparent, the document says.

In poorer countries most people have already been vaccinated, including the youngest at risk from COVID - 19, while in rich nations the most vulnerable people are still waiting for a first dose and there is a lack of basic materials, such as face masks and other personal protective equipment.

In many countries, avoidable death is a reality, and unsustainable pressure on health systems is mounting due to insufficient access to oxygen and PPE, the document says.

At least $1.7 billion are urgently needed to buy protective devices for healthcare workers in poorer nations, the document says, and another $2.4 billion are needed to boost testing in lower countries.