The UK government has pledged up to £105 million of its emergency aid to help Nigeria and other vulnerable African countries tackle the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Uk Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss who made this pledge said the vital aid will be delivered through trusted partners, such as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to scale-up testing – especially in parts of Africa where testing rates for Covid-19 remain the lowest – allowing health systems to track and respond to the spread of the virus more effectively.
The fund will also improve access to oxygen supplies for ventilators, the Secretary explained in a statement on Thursday, while noting that a surge in demand for oxygen is a significant risk for some countries.
The fund will also “Provide communities with hygiene advice, products and access to handwashing facilities and support deep cleaning in schools, health centres and other public places. This will build on the successful global hygiene campaign between UK aid and Unilever which has reached over 1.2 billion people since its launch in 2020.
“Fund the UK’s ground-breaking science and research into the spread of variants like Omicron to enable innovative evidence-based policy responses in low and middle-income countries,” the statement added.
British High Commission further said the government of the United Kingdom has also confirmed that over 30 million vaccines have been delivered so far as part of the UK’s pledge to donate 100 million doses to the world, benefitting more than 30 countries, including Nigeria.
“Doses donated by the UK have reached four continents and provided vital protection from COVID-19 in countries, including Nigeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda.
“Of the more than 30 million doses now donated so far, 24.6 million have been received by COVAX for delivery to countries and 5.5 million have been shared directly with countries in need. The UK has so far donated to Nigeria over 1.2 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX in 2021.
“Millions of more vaccines will be sent to Nigeria and other countries in 2022, including 20 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses and 20 million Janssen doses.
“The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19. Today’s announcement builds on the £1.3 billion in UK aid committed to the international health response early on in the pandemic, supporting vaccines, health systems and economic recovery in developing countries.
“The UK government has also invested more than £88 million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the UK became the first country in the world to approve the jab a year ago today.
“In Nigeria, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) supported the improved capability and capacity of the NCDC for COVID genomic sequencing, which has now conducted more than 2,000 tests compared to about 400 tests six months ago.
“The UKHSA is also building the diagnostic capacity in Nigeria for common childhood diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough) and other diseases of public health significance. The UKHSA is also supporting the development of national and subnational health security plans, including building the technical and leadership capacity within the NCDC. The UKAid funded Lafiya programme has also supported the procurement of £2 million worth of PPE kits, protecting more than 5,000 health workers in the five northern states: Borno, Yobe, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa.
Also speaking, Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “The global pandemic has challenged health systems around the world and the best way to overcome this awful disease is to unite and stand side by side with our international partners.
“By supporting countries with the UK’s ground-breaking science and research into the spread of variants, improving access to oxygen and scaling up testing we will help those most in need chart their course out of the pandemic. I am proud we have already delivered over 30 million vaccines to our friends abroad. The UK, as a global leader, is helping other countries most in need. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”