Press release

Africa’s debt crisis is slowing Covid-19 vaccination, Christian Aid warns

  • Charity calls for ‘solidarity package’ to tackle Covid-19 and the climate crisis
  • Africa has accounted for about 2% of vaccine doses, despite being home to 14% of the world’s population
Africa’s debt crisis is slowing Covid-19 vaccination with vaccine costs adding to the debt burden, Christian Aid has warned as it calls for a ‘solidarity package’ to tackle the virus and the climate crisis.
A new research paper launched today by the charity shows how developing countries need ‘a comprehensive debt cancellation deal’ to help ensure they can rapidly roll out Covid-19 vaccines and build universal health coverage, and how private creditors should be mandated to be part of a comprehensive debt deal agreed by the G20.
In the paper, ‘Vaccine Debts’, the NGO calls for vaccine patents to be waived, so developing countries with generic medicine production capacity can boost production, lower prices, and help to save lives. It argues we need a ‘solidarity package’ so we all have the means to help tackle the common challenges of Covid-19 and the climate crisis.
The paper comes against the backdrop of millions around the world having had Covid-19, and three million people having died from the virus. The pandemic is also pushing an estimated 150 million people into extreme poverty, whilst deepening poverty for many more people who were already unable to meet their basic needs. A two-speed vaccination rollout risks a two-speed recovery, with stark warnings of a ‘lost decade’ for Africa.
The document points out that so far, Africa has accounted for about 2% of vaccine doses, despite being home to 14% of the world’s population. The slow roll-out of vaccines in Africa, and in other poorer regions is due to inadequate global supply and hoarding of doses by rich countries. Supply is artificially limited due to pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly on technology and intellectual property protection.
Meanwhile, the paper shows that a spiralling debt crisis is making an already difficult situation worse, in three key ways:
  • First, an unsustainable debt burden has shrunk the fiscal space countries need to procure vaccines, and made them heavily reliant on the UN’s COVAX initiative which only promises 20% vaccine coverage by the end of this year.
  • Secondly, rising indebtedness has starved health systems of the resources they need to roll out vaccines efficiently once they’re procured.
  • Thirdly, there is a risk that vaccine procurement outside of COVAX and corresponding capacity to administer vaccines effectively, including via the African Union, which aims to secure vaccines for another 25% of Africa’s population, will add to the debt burden facing the poorest countries.
It describes the ‘triple whammy’ facing the poorest countries: of rising needs arising from the pandemic, falling revenues, and a mushrooming debt burden.
Outlining the ‘solidarity package’ being called for by Christian Aid, the charity’s head of global advocacy and policy, Fionna Smyth, said: “Covid-19 and climate change are complex crises requiring globally coordinated action. Wealthier countries have a responsibility both to support crisis prevention measures - Covid-19 vaccines, and climate mitigation and renewable energy - and curative measures, such as health systems or climate adaptation. A solidarity approach is in the self-interest of rich, as well as poor – decisive action and adequate investment now will reduce long-term costs, whilst saving lives and livelihoods.”
She added: “A just recovery from this crisis depends on G20 countries and the International Financial Institutions living up to their global responsibilities, and resolving the debt crisis in a decisive and durable way.”
Notes to editors:
To read the report, ‘Vaccine Debts’ please click here:

Spokespeople are available for further comment.