To help nations in inoculating the most vulnerable populations, the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) has launched a $100 million campaign to provide COVID-19 vaccines to refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and migrants around the world.

According to UNHCR, there are now more than 80 million refugees around the world. Some 85 per cent of them are hosted in low- and middle-income countries.

Despite 153 States having adopted COVID-19 vaccination strategies that include refugees – and some 20 countries are known to have begun inoculating refugees on an equal footing to citizens – we still see refugees, migrants, and IDPs at the back of the queue.

The nations which continue to generously host the bulk of refugees need more support to address the urgent health needs of their nationals and the refugees within their borders – including with COVID-19 vaccines.

Qatar Red Crescent has been at the forefront of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic by supporting vulnerable people in Qatar as well as around the world.

The #IAmVaccinatedIDonated initiative, targeting 3.65 million people, is scheduled to run for three years across 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The campaign was launched on 12 April 2021 by Sheikh Abdullah bin Thamer al-Thani, president of QRCS, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Thamer al-Thani said: “This humanitarian campaign aims to reach those living in humanitarian emergencies or in settings where they are at risk of being left behind and must be part of COVID-19 vaccination efforts.”

“The campaign will also provide an unprecedented ability for Muslims around the world to use Zakat money to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. As Muslims around the world welcome the holy month of Ramadan, we hope they will join this unique effort”.

Refugees and migrants especially vulnerable

Recent research from the IFRC outlines how migrants have been disproportionately exposed to, and affected by, COVID-19. This is due to limited access to essential health services, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as poor, overcrowded and unsafe living and working conditions.

UN data highlights that Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon have died from COVID-19 at a rate more than four and three times the national average, respectively. Yet, only 2.86 per cent of those immunised and 5.36 per cent of those registered to receive the shots are non-Lebanese, according to findings by Human Rights Watch.

Migrants have also been hit hardest by the economic fallout of COVID-19, are widely neglected from formal protection and safeguarding measures, and regularly face stigma and discrimination. The closure of some borders due to the pandemic has increased the use of the non-regular trails, increasing the risk not only of contagion but also of falling into human trafficking networks, being robbed, or violence.

Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, Regional Director of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “Noticeably, there have recently been stark inequalities in the availability of vaccines in our region and the world.

“I hope that this work will address that situation, as we are all in the same boat. Being the world’s largest humanitarian network, IFRC is ready to contribute technical support and practical expertise to make sure that vaccination is done up to international standards.”

In addition to supporting the provision of vaccines for 3.65 million people, the campaign will feature a major public advocacy push focused on vaccine equity and messaging on the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19. Target groups will also include the elderly, those suffering from chronic disease and humanitarian workers, in addition to refugees and migrants.

The Qatar Red Crescent Society was established in 1978. It joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies when it gained international recognition from the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva in 1981.