Top United Nations officials, including the UN peacekeeping chief, have expressed gratitude to India for its gift of 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for peacekeepers, saying the donation will enable the Blue Helmets to continue their life-saving work in a safe manner.
The 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, announced as a gift by India for UN peacekeepers, left Mumbai in the early hours of Saturday and will arrive at Copenhagen, Denmark. They will then be distributed to all UN peacekeeping missions.
Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare on Friday hailed India’s contribution of the vaccine doses for the UN peacekeepers.
“An effective roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine to all peacekeepers is a key priority for the United Nations in order to protect our personnel and their capacity to continue their crucial work, help protect vulnerable communities and deliver on their mandates,” Lacroix said.
“India is a longstanding and steadfast supporter of Peacekeeping and I want to thank the Government and people of India, who have generously donated COVID-19 vaccines to benefit our peacekeeping personnel and enable them to continue their life-saving work in a safe manner.”
Khare thanked India for donating the 200,000 vaccines to UN peacekeeping missions.
"This important donation will allow us to ensure that UN peacekeepers are able to remain healthy and deliver in some of the most difficult environments in the world without relying on already stretched national health systems or ongoing COVAX efforts.”
He added that “we also remain engaged with our troop and police-contributing countries to ensure that wherever possible, uniformed personnel are vaccinated through their national systems prior to deployment. At the same time, my Department is leading UN system-wide arrangements to support national efforts in vaccinating UN civilian personnel and family members.”
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had announced in February that India will gift 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for UN peacekeepers.
“Keeping in mind the UN Peacekeepers who operate in such difficult circumstances, we would like to announce today a gift of 200,000 doses for them,” Jaishankar had said while addressing the UN Security Council open debate on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) on the cessation of hostilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quoting the Bhagavad Gita, Jaishankar had said “Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”
The 200,000 doses essentially mean that it will be possible to administer the required double doses of COVID vaccines to all UN peacekeepers across missions. According to UN Peacekeeping, as of January 31, 2021 a total of 85,782 personnel are serving in 12 peacekeeping operations across the world led by the Department of Peace Operations.
A total of 121 nations are contributing uniformed personnel to the UN peacekeeping missions.
India is one of the largest contributors of troops and police to UN peacekeeping missions, with more than 5,000 men and women deployed in nine missions, including in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Lebanon.
The 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine left Mumbai via Qatar Airways on March 27 at 04:10 am.
The shipment will go to Copenhagen, where it will be safely stored in a facility, re-packaged and quickly distributed to peacekeeping missions for the peacekeepers.
The vaccine Covishield is the version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. Covaxin is the indigenously developed vaccine by pharma company Bharat Biotech.
The Department of Peace Operations said that over the past year, UN peacekeepers around the world have undertaken “remarkable efforts” as they adjusted and responded to the unprecedented global health crisis.
Nearly 100,000 peacekeepers, already operating within complex and challenging environments, managed to keep themselves and others safe while supporting national and local authorities in their response to the pandemic.
It added that despite the unexpected challenges posed by COVID-19, peacekeepers demonstrated adaptability and flexibility to continue implementing their core mandates, which is to protect people and build sustainable peace.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said that he is “extremely grateful” for the gift of 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for UN peacekeepers announced by India.
Under India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, which translates into Vaccine Friendship, the country has been providing vaccines to nations across the world - from India’s immediate neighbours to countries in Latin America and Africa - and is a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility.
More than 58 million Made in India coronavirus vaccine doses have reached about 70 countries in recent weeks.
(With ANI inputs)