NIGERIA – Nigeria will benefit from Japan’s US $39 million donation to UNICEF for provision of cold chain equipment in priority storage sites based on gap analyses, to improve storage capacity for vaccines and facilitate monitoring of vaccine potency.

Thirty-one more countries in Africa and Latin America will benefit from this donation.

The support from the Government of Japan complements the work of the COVAX Facility, an international vaccine procurement mechanism working to ensure that people in all countries have quick and equitable access to vaccines.

This has a far-reaching impact on the overall goal of the COVID-19 prevention strategy in the country through vaccination, as well as the entire immunization program for child survival.

A walk-in freezer room will be installed in each of the selected six states. This includes solar vaccine refrigerators to be installed in 175 wards that have a gap in vaccine storage capacity.

Temperature monitoring devices will be installed across 18 state cold stores, and technical assistance will be provided to carry out the setting up and maintenance of the equipment and devices. These supplies will ensure the quality of the vaccines.

Rushnan Murtaza, Officer in Charge, Representative, UNICEF Nigeria said, “We welcome the generous support of the Government and the people of Japan to Nigeria, as we continue to grapple with the impact of COVID-19.”

Murtaza also noted that the funds will allow UNICEF to more effectively implement the strategy to ensure as many Nigerians as possible receive COVID-19 vaccinations, ensuring timeliness and efficacy of the vaccines, towards a better future for all.

UNICEF has played a central role in supporting the procurement, transportation, and storage of COVID-19 vaccines to Nigeria and other countries, taking advantage of its long-standing vaccine procurement, storage, and transportation experience, as well as its existing immunization infrastructure.

Recently, the Japanese government also partnered with UNICEF to procure cold chain equipment as well as strengthen health facility capacity to manage the equipment for a smoother roll out of the COVID-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe.

The grant was a continuation of Japan’s support towards UNICEF’s multi-sectoral response action to address the direct impact of the pandemic in Zimbabwe.

Africa has been at the very bottom of COVID-19 vaccinations pyramid globally. Only slightly over 2% of the continent’s population has received a vaccine shot.

Analysis by WHO shows that Eswatini is the only African country to have administered more vaccines per head, compared to any other African nation during the first phase of their COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

“Eswatini gave nearly 110% of the doses they received as they made use of every single drop in every vial,” says Dr Phionah Atuhebwe, WHO’s New Vaccines Introduction Officer for Africa.

Eswatini borders South-Africa, which accounts for nearly half of Africa’s cases of COVID-19. Among Eswatini’s 1.2 million people, over 18 500 cases had been logged and over 670 people had died by late May this year.