Will 2022 be a better year?

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“Nothing changes on New Years Day,” sings U2’s Bono on Irish rock band’s 1983 track “New Year’s Day.” Although the classic anthem is about the arrest of Lech Walesa, leader of the Polish solidarity movement, the aforementioned lyrics aptly describe the state of the COVID-19 pandemic on the dawn of 2022.

At the end of last year, UNICEF released a stimulating report warning of the worsening of child malnutrition, the loss of educational opportunities and the worsening of child protection problems due to them. to the pandemic. The report, Preventing a Lost Decade, describes the pandemic as “the worst crisis for children in UNICEF’s 75-year history.”

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Looking ahead to 2022, the report calls for investments in social protection, human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery from the pandemic.

Invest in children

Why is it important for governments to protect program spending for children in the third year of the pandemic?

“We need to invest in childhood more than ever because it is disappearing,” responded David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. If investments in childhood development are not made now, malnutrition will increase and health and education systems will weaken in developing countries.

“It’s going to spill over into the rest of the lives of these kids,” he told The Whig-Standard in a year-end phone interview.

“Governments need to make additional investments to help children recover because what children have experienced in every country in the world is unlike anything that has happened to anyone since probably World War II. … In the 75 years of UNICEF, we have never seen anything like it in the past two years. … At the end of World War II, when UNICEF was created, the world said, “OK, we’re going to invest in children, because there was this disaster. This is what we need to do now.

Vaccine equity

UNICEF report states that “all people should have an equal opportunity to receive COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of identity, place of residence, migration status, nationality, gender , their social status or their ethnic origin ”.

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What will UNICEF do differently in 2022, if at all, than in 2021 with regard to vaccine equity?

“We are trying to encourage more production in more countries, so that there are more vaccines produced. We are purchasing more vaccines from the Serum Institute in India. There is a new factory online in South Korea. See where we can get more production capacity for vaccines and for what it takes to deliver the vaccines i.e. syringes. If we can secure markets for some syringes and vaccines… that helps increase production.

“A year ago, the difficulty was the vaccine supply. But we can see that next year (2022) there will be enough supply. … But the problems are going to be the syringes and the transportation and we secure the markets in the low income countries, so that there will be the companies, whether generic or branded, to have the economy to continue to produce and continue to let us buy them.

Refugees

What can UNICEF do in low- and middle-income countries to ensure that marginalized people, such as refugees, get immunized?

“Ensuring that refugees and minority groups are vaccinated is really, really important, because too many places there have people excluded from national vaccination plans,” Morley replied. He said UNICEF was working with local governments and with other United Nations agencies, providing services in refugee camps “to make sure the vaccine campaigns are there.”

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UNICEF is also shipping vaccine for refugees to countries hosting refugees.

Childhood vaccination

How can vaccinations against preventable childhood diseases be restored to pre-pandemic levels in 2022?

Morley responded by pointing out that routine vaccinations against preventable childhood illnesses, such as measles, rubella and pertussis, have saved lives. Additionally, he said COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to save lives as well.

“I think we need to build on the momentum that is happening with vaccine production and some of the new vaccine science and research,” he continued. “It’s going to be tough, because we’re all exhausted (by the pandemic). “But this is our opportunity.”

When it comes to routine vaccinations, Morley says the world needs to invest even more in cold chain technology and new vaccine science.

“At the same time, I don’t want to sound too naive. I know there is a very small opposition group to vaccines, ”Morley said. “But I think the vast majority of people know vaccines work. “

Nutrition

When it comes to child nutrition, what can UNICEF, national governments and donor countries do to ensure that every child has access to safe and nutritious food by 2022?

“Part of this is related to the issue of education… because for many vulnerable children, marginalized poor families, schools are a way of distributing food through school lunches,” he said. declared. Indeed, school lunches are often the main meal of the day for many vulnerable children.

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“We have to open the schools, because it becomes a way (us) to be able to distribute more food to the children.”

Increasing investments in agriculture and dietary supplements and directing those investments to the most vulnerable families are other ways of dealing with the nutritional crisis, he said. In addition, cash transfers to people living in refugee camps are another way to help them supplement children’s diets.

“Our programs have shown that when you give cash transfers to moms, they invest them in their children and in their children’s food. For example, cash transfers help mothers buy food in local markets, which in turn helps local producers.

In addition, there is also a need to invest in life-saving ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) to treat severe acute malnutrition and save the lives of malnourished children on the brink of death. “But let’s try to make sure that we never have to use this food,” Morley added.

Education

How can the world help children in low income countries get back to school in 2022?

“We have to be sure that teachers are vaccinated,” he said. “It’s really important to reopen schools. In addition, the eventual distribution of a pediatric formulation of a COVID-19 vaccine will be another important step.

Another problem that needs to be addressed is the lack of internet access for students in low income countries. “Think of it as a learning center for communities,” Morley said. While nothing can replace a teacher, “improved technology will help.” UNICEF “plans to use satellites to be able to bring the Internet to more schools.”

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In addition, improving teacher training is another priority, so “there is less time in school devoted to rote learning and more to helping children tap into their creativity”, a- he declared. “It is not only access to education, which is the first step, but then the quality of education. We work a lot with ministries of education on teacher training.

Last question

At the end of 2020, you told The Whig-Standard that 2021 was going to be a tough year. Do you think the same about 2022?

“It’s going to be tough, but I don’t think it’s going to be that tough,” Morley said with cautious optimism. “Yes, 2022 is going to be a tough year, but more people will be vaccinated, so we will start to see our way out of this pandemic. On the other hand, I think that in 2022 the number of malnourished children will increase. “

He thinks we will see the light at the end of the tunnel in 2022. “Looking ahead, we (will see) that in 2023 and 2024 we are not going to face the pandemic in the same way. We will invest in immunization, nutrition, education. And I think that will facilitate the passage of 2022. “

However, Morley said 2022 “will always be a difficult year, as things have gone so far backwards for the world’s vulnerable children.”

“Yeah, but the light at the end of the tunnel always gives hope, doesn’t it?”

Follow Geoffrey P. Johnston on Twitter @GeoffyPJohnston.

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