Statement by His Excellency Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives at the 2021 ECOSOC Special Ministerial Meeting “A Vaccine for All” – 16 April 2021

His Excellency Munir Akram, President of ECOSOC and Distinguished Permanent Representative of Pakistan, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Greetings from the Maldives.

We have now surpassed a year, since World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). With over 132 million confirmed cases and 2.8 million deaths, COVID-19 has become a brutal reality-check of our unpreparedness for the biggest global challenge in recent history.

The Maldives, under the leadership of His Excellency President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took swift, strategic steps to protect our people. We immediately declared a National Health Emergency. With the help of our development partners, we boosted testing capacity, established COVID-19 treatment facilities, trained healthcare workers, provided income support, stimulus packages, despite the huge depletion of government resources.

The Maldives economy, with a high dependence on earnings from the tourism sector, and heavily reliant on imports for all essential commodities, came to a complete halt when borders closed across the world. We recognised that the Maldives needs a helping hand in order to survive, until there is a global solution. Therefore, on behalf of all Maldivians, I thank all our partners, bilateral and multilateral, who have generously extended aid, in grants and concessional loans as well as assistance in-kind during this crisis. With this generous aid, Maldives was able to maintain a balance between public health and economic recovery with resilience. In this regard, we are happy to note that the World Bank Group had forecasted our GDP growth of 17.1% for 2021 as compared to -28% in 2020.

Under the exemplary leadership of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, we are ensuring vaccines for all, irrespective of nationality. With deep appreciation to the bilateral partners India and China for vaccine donation, we are happy to note that we have been able to vaccinate ..% of people in the Maldives. This is also why, we wholeheartedly agree with the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros when he said: “No-one is safe until everyone is safe” and we consider this Special Meeting of extreme importance and overdue.

Excellencies, We are indebted and impressed by the immense progress made towards development of vaccines in this short period of time. However, we do not want a repeat of the 2009 influenza pandemic, where vaccine availability was a privilege for richer countries, leaving the developing world vulnerable to the pandemic. For the COVID-19 vaccine roll out, such a scenario will be devastating to most of the countries already burdened by health and socio-economic crises.

While we are in the early stages of COVID-19 vaccine distributions, we need to ensure concrete steps that will facilitate fair and equitable access to vaccines. These include, considering manufacturing constraints in developed countries; a waiver of intellectual property rights to gain access to vaccine technology for developing countries; and to maximizing vaccine roll out depending on country-preparedness. Developing countries, especially countries with unique situations, need predictable financing to invest in health infrastructure and resolve distribution issues.

Excellencies, The world right now is in dire need of a global and diplomatic approach that embraces multilateralism. It is therefore, heartening to note that an overwhelming majority of the international community supports the WHO-led ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX Facility. Without banding together, COVID-19 will continue to ravage communities and control our lives. Committing to PGA’s “Vaccine4All” initiative will keep us on the right track as the beginning of the end of this pandemic appears now insight. Let us use solidarity, science and shared solutions to build back better. Let us work together and demonstrate through action, appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices made by our COVID-19 front-line workers.

In conclusion, I commend the President of ECOSOC for his leadership to bring us all together to this global conversation and keep the spotlight on vaccines for all. The Maldives is committed to working with you all, and I sincerely hope this meeting will bridge the gap in access to COVID-19 vaccines to ensure ‘no one is left behind’.

I thank you.

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