Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines has been recently described as the ‘most pressing issue of our times’ by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. It is a necessary move to overcome the devastating pandemic.
Within this context, UN Volunteers have been supporting the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines under the global COVAX facility, while others continue to support COVID-19 response and recovery efforts worldwide.
In the Arab States, 104 UN Volunteers have been deployed with the World Health Organization (WHO) since the beginning of 2021. This story highlights some of their efforts across the region.
Dr. Camille Péneau joined the WHO office in Algeria as a UN Volunteer in charge of emergency preparedness and response. Arriving amid the COVID-19 pandemic, most of her daily work consisted of supporting the country in responding to this crisis. Later, Camille’s primary mission was to assist with the country’s preparation for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
"Since COVID-19 had not yet been declared a pandemic when I applied for this assignment, serving with WHO in the pandemic context required adaptation and responsiveness. It has been a very challenging time." -- UN Volunteer Dr. Camille Péneau.
Ali Sarwar is an international UN Volunteer Specialist serving as Monitoring and Evaluation Officer with WHO in Sudan. He has been supporting the set-up of a real-time disease outbreak alert system. Such surveillance activities provide information to managers swiftly, allowing them to investigate and respond to disease outbreaks in Sudan.
On 31 March 2021, Egypt received 854,400 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility. These doses prioritized healthcare workers, elders and people with chronic diseases throughout Egypt.
"Standing with my colleagues a few meters away from the plane delivering the historic first COVAX vaccines shipment to Egypt was truly a proud moment for me. I am so proud to be part of the team that supported securing COVID-19 vaccines for Egypt." -- Heba Abou Bakr, UN Volunteer Technical Officer with the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, and Rokayya Konsowa, UN Volunteer Communications Officer with WHO in Egypt.
Each UN Volunteer has talents and makes contributions beyond their main duties.
Abdelrahman Jarour serves as Team Assistant with WHO in the occupied Palestinian territory, in the Gaza Sub-Office. His key responsibilities include dealing with administrative issues, procurement of goods and services, analysis and data entry, and following up with suppliers on delivering essential medicines, medical equipment and lab supplies related to COVID-19. Beyond his work duties, Abdelrahman keeps his camera on his side to ensure he does not miss any opportunity for a good photo, following his passion as a photographer.
Danielle Inaty served as a UN Volunteer with the Health Sector coordination team for the COVID-19 and Beirut Port Explosion responses.
She was very proud of supporting the WHO Intra-Action Review Mission that visited Lebanon in December 2020. She says this was a chance for her to learn about the COVID Intra-Action Review process and witness strategic and technical discussions among WHO experts and national stakeholders.
"The main lesson I have learned throughout my work with the health sector team and WHO staff is the importance of adopting a participatory multi-sectoral approach to ensure a successful and effective response to health emergencies." -- UN Volunteer Danielle Inaty
From the moment the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was obvious that collective actions towards attaining 'Health for All' needed to be gender-sensitive.
"The risk of getting infected was higher for women due to their caregiving roles. Making information and women-centred services available facilitates women’s access to vaccination and offers them an opportunity to maintain their wellbeing, and that of their families." -- UN Volunteer Ainur Kanafina.