UN-backed ceasefire call aims to bring Covid-19 vaccines to war zones

Resolution may be a sign of easier US-China co-operation under the Biden administration

Syrian refugees wait to receive their Coronavirus vaccine, at a medical center in the Zaatari refugee camp, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the capital Amman on February 15, 2021.  / AFP / Khalil MAZRAAWI
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The UN Security Council on Friday voted unanimously to pass a resolution demanding that armed groups put down their guns so medics can bring coronavirus vaccines into people’s arms in the world's warzones.

The UK-drafted resolution was co-sponsored by 112 countries and called for a “general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Somalia and other hotspots that face the double danger of flying bullets and Covid-19.

The resolution will be difficult to carry out, but it marked a breakthrough for a Security Council that was for months last year deadlocked by the previous US Trump administration’s rows with China over the origin of the virus.

“We’re proud to lead in securing the swift and unanimous agreement of today’s UN Security Council ceasefire resolution, which will help get vaccines to people living in conflict zones,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

As well as pushing for global ceasefires, the resolution asks rich nations to give vaccine doses to poorer countries, including through the UN-backed Covax vaccine facility, which delivered its first doses in Ghana this week.

“The resolution also builds support for Covax, through which the UK is providing over a billion vaccine doses for the most vulnerable people around the world — because we need a global solution to a global pandemic," added Mr Raab.

Barbara Woodward, the UN ambassador for the UK, which holds the council’s rotating presidency in March, said after the vote that the resolution would help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict zones.

“This is a first step,” Ms Woodward told reporters.

“Obviously, each of these situations will require further negotiations at the country and even at the field and local level” to ensure vaccines reach people in war-ravaged regions around the world.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected 113 million globally and claimed at least 2.5 million lives. While the distribution of vaccines is slowing the pathogen’s spread, fears persist that deadlier mutant strains could derail progress.

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