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Coronavirus – Africa: Norway to strengthen global health efforts in response to coronavirus pandemic

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‘In Malawi, only 600 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted for a population of 17.5 million. It is vital that more developing countries are able to increase their testing capacity and have access to personal protective equipment,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein. 

It is the poorest and most vulnerable countries that are likely to be hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has made it necessary to increase funding for global health efforts. The Government has therefore proposed increasing Norway’s allocation to global health by NOK 541 million, to a total of NOK 4.152 billion in 2020.

There is a significant need for funding for infection control measures, testing and the development of treatments for COVID-19. This is why Norway is increasing its support for global health efforts.

‘As part of the work to prevent the spread of infection, we will also seek to improve sanitary conditions. And we will step up our efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition,’ Mr Ulstein said.

The Government will support efforts to strengthen health systems and protect vulnerable groups. Funding may also be used for information campaigns, hygiene measures, the running of hospitals, treatments and for dealing with other health-related consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

NOK 150 million of the increased allocation will go to priority countries including Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting African countries hard. Sudan’s Minister of Health has said that the country will soon run out of necessary medicines and personal protective equipment. It is essential that Norway responds to this emergency. That is why we are now allocating funding for personal protective equipment and medicines, and for increasing testing capacity in Africa,’ Mr Ulstein said.

On 4 May, Prime Minster Erna Solberg took part, together with a number of other heads of state and government, in a pledging conference to kick-start the European Commission’s Coronavirus Global Response initiative. In addition to the funding for CEPI, Ms Solberg announced a contribution of NOK 10.25 billion to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for the period 2021-2030.

Norway is already providing substantial support for vaccine development under the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and had allocated NOK 1.6 billion to CEPI for the period 2017-2025. We have now allocated additional funding of NOK 236 million to CEPI in 2020, earmarked for COVID-19-related efforts. In addition, Norway has pledged to provide approximately NOK 2 billion for the period 2021-2030.  

A further contribution of NOK 50 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) was also announced at the pledging conference. This funding is intended to strengthen WHO’s capacity to lead the global COVID-19 response.

 ‘We know that we will not have reached our goal until the vaccines, treatments and tests for COVID-19 that are now being developed and produced reach the people in most urgent need of help. Norway will work to put in place a system that ensures equitable access to vaccines and treatments. Gavi has an important role to play in this context,’ Mr Ulstein said. 

 ‘Efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic are vital, but we must also maintain a focus on other infectious diseases. Some 4 000 people die every day from tuberculosis alone. WHO is deeply concerned about the 13 million children who are not being vaccinated against polio, measles and cholera. It is clear that there will be an even greater need for Gavi’s efforts in the years ahead,’ Mr Ulstein said.

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