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Energy cuts in Niger threaten to spoil hundreds of thousands of vaccines as sanctions take their toll, UN says

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NIAMEY, Niger — The U.N. is spending over 20 instances more cash than standard on gas for turbines to maintain hundreds of thousands of vaccines in Niger from spoiling resulting from incessant energy cuts. The outages are the results of extreme financial and journey sanctions imposed by regional nations after mutinous troopers toppled the nation’s president final month.

Nation consultant for the United Nations Youngsters’s Fund in Niger, Stefano Savi, advised The Related Press on Monday that it has spent $200,000 powering turbines to maintain vaccines, together with for polio and rotavirus, throughout the nation chilly through the first three weeks of August. That is up from roughly $10,000 a month beforehand and would possibly quickly run out of cash, he mentioned.

Niger depends on neighboring Nigeria for as much as 90% of its energy, however after troopers ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum in July, Nigeria minimize off a part of its electrical energy provide as a part of sanctions imposed by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS.

The sanctions are taking a toll on the inhabitants with the value of products rising, residents unable to simply entry money, and other people dwelling at the hours of darkness. Now there are mounting considerations it is going to gravely impression the well being system, notably the flexibility to maintain some 28 million vaccine doses within the nation chilly.

Though there have been energy cuts earlier than the sanctions, they normally lasted just a few hours, however now the cuts are for much longer — typically as much as 18 hours a day, mentioned Savi. UNICEF solely has sufficient cash till the top of August and is interesting to donors for emergency funds, he mentioned.

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ECOWAS has struggled to stave off coups within the area — Mali and Burkina Faso have had two every since 2020 — and views Niger’s coup as one too many, imposing harsh sanctions and threatening army pressure if Bazoum is not reinstated. Whereas the specter of pressure hasn’t materialized, Niger’s junta ignored a deadline to reinstate Bazoum and final week introduced it will transition to civilian rule inside three years.

Throughout a weekend assembly between junta chief Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani and a delegation from ECOWAS, Tchiani pushed the bloc to elevate the sanctions and mentioned the army was underneath stress to ease the struggling on the inhabitants, an official within the assembly who was not approved to talk to the media advised AP. The official mentioned Tchiani repeatedly complained concerning the sanctions however wasn’t keen to provide a lot in return.

Whereas not one of the vaccines have gone dangerous but, there’s concern it may occur, say well being officers. Most of Niger’s roughly 1,300 native well being facilities are powered by photo voltaic panels and in a position to preserve the vaccines chilly, however the capital, Niamey and regional and district ranges depend on electrical energy and turbines.

“If the scenario continues like this, we are going to run out of diesel gas, we will be unable to energy the room with electrical energy and we’d lose all these vacines that value (hundreds of thousands of {dollars}),” mentioned Mallam Brah Hararou a logistician on the nationwide vaccine middle in Niamey.

The sanctions and the junta’s closing of the airspace have additionally prevented items from coming into the nation, threatening the resupply of medical gear and food. UNICEF has some 50 containers with immunization, chilly chain gear and therapeutic meals caught at totally different entry factors unable to get into the nation, mentioned a press release from the group.

The one open route by highway is thru neighboring Burkina Faso, which is harmful as a result of it is riddled with militant teams.

On Sunday, roughly 300 vans with meals and different important provides crossed into Niger from Burkina Faso. It was escorted by a army convoy on either side of the border.

“The problem there may be safety. As you realize the world is infested with let’s say bandits, who began to burn down vans. However now with the professionalism proven by each armies these vans have been in a position to arrive safely,” mentioned Col. Adamou Zarouneye, Niger’s regional customs director.

Nonetheless, it is unclear how viable that route will probably be. Drivers who transported the products say they had been caught for 2 months in Burkina Faso unable to cross into Niger due to the insecurity.

“I discovered it tough on the highway,” mentioned Bashir Djouri a truck driver from Ghana. “You possibly can’t take roads, actually,” he mentioned.

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