Women and children bearing brunt of pandemic in Mena

US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hears from aid group about effects of Covid on region

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Women and children as well as other vulnerable populations in the Middle East and North Africa have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs heard on Wednesday.

Women, children, refugees and displaced people have not only borne the brunt of the pandemic but are also struggling to gain access to vaccines at the same rate as other populations, the committee heard.

“In many cases, the pandemic’s devastating impacts, including loss of livelihoods, reduced remittances, falling incomes, interrupted vaccination programmes, increased unemployment, increased gender-based violence and deepening poverty mean that more people will need support in a region that hosts over half of the total displaced population worldwide,” Eman Moankar of Care International told the committee.

Ms Moankar said she was particularly concerned with the situation faced by women in Syria, Yemen and Gaza, three areas strongly affected by conflict.

She called on the US government to lead the way in helping to bring vaccines to vulnerable populations across the region.

This month, US President Joe Biden pledged to donate 500 million vaccine doses to other countries.

The committee hearing also focused on how the US can compete with China and Russia in what Joe Wilson, a representative from South Carolina, described as “vaccine diplomacy".

During the committee hearing, Democratic representative Juan Vargas said the US should put American flags on all vaccines it donates to the region.

“Let people know it's coming from the United States of America and that we support them,” he said.

About 10 million of the donated doses have already been sent by the US to countries and territories around the world.