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Hello Newswire readers. I'm Senior Reporter Teresa Welsh, filling in for my colleague Michael Igoe. In today’s edition: The U.S. has fallen far behind China and Russia on vaccine diplomacy, but now it’s signaled that it wants to get into the game.  

As shot rollout quickens in the U.S., Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced former USAID Administrator Gayle Smith will serve as coordinator for global COVID response and health security at the U.S. State Department. Blinken called her someone who is “tested” and “highly respected,” adding she “will hit the ground running.”

• “There’s no country on Earth that can do what we do” when it comes to pandemic response, Blinken said, and the U.S. will ensure “broad and equitable” distribution of vaccines that meet the highest standards. “As we get more confidence in our vaccine supply here at home, we are exploring options to share more with other countries going forward,” Blinken said. “We believe we’ll be in a position to do much more on this front.”

• Smith assured she will seek to “shorten the lifespan of the pandemic” and ensure the world is better prepared to respond to future global health threats, while her former boss praised the selection of “Gayle-force” for the role: “I can’t think of a better person to drive the U.S. effort to chase this virus off the face of the planet,” ONE founder Bono said.

ALL THINGS SPRING MEETINGS

Speaking at the World Bank Spring Meetings, COVAX Facility Managing Director Aurélia Nguyen called the global vaccine supply “a seller’s market” but said the world must see the “moral argument” to ensure all countries have adequate access regardless of ability to pay.

• “The IMF is an incredibly important stakeholder for COVAX,” Nguyen said. “Having a central institution like the IMF that can call upon countries to continue spending on health care is really critical because it will help a path to recovery.”

• U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen chimed in, too: She said wealthier countries must foot the bill for widespread vaccine access because a failure to vaccinate the entire world will threaten the U.S. — and global — economies.

SHOT CHASERS

World Bank President David Malpass told reporters Monday that lower-income countries must begin their vaccination campaigns as soon as possible. “We are trying to have the two critical paths go in parallel: vaccine supply and vaccinator capabilities,” he said.

Still, less than a third of assessed countries have plans to scale up the necessary workforce of vaccinators. And past experience doesn’t mean much: The same assessments found that countries’ experiences delivering childhood vaccinations were not good indicators of their readiness for adult COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

Inside the World Bank Spring Meetings

Join me and my colleagues on Friday for a Devex Pro Live event, where we’ll discuss the biggest takeaways from the meetings.

HIDDEN SURGE

Experts in Papua New Guinea believe the official statistic of just over 7,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases is undercounting by a factor of 14. The nation’s epidemic has already led to a one-month lockdown — and to virus variants.

Lisa Cornish dives into what’s going wrong.

MORE TREES, LESS CARBON

“We all receive services through air, water, rain, that rely on the preservation of these forests.” — Julio Berdegue, regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, FAO

A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization and Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean found that almost half of Indigenous-managed forests in the region remain fully intact, and that they account for just 2.6% of Amazon basin carbon emissions despite covering 28% of the territory.

Now the report’s authors hope their message can convince the Brazilian government and business community that sustainable forest practices are beneficial to them too. Part of our Focus on: People and the Planet.

+ ICYMI: The Inter-American Development Bank launched its first climate facility focused on the Amazon last month.

HELP FOR TIGRAY

Singer, songwriter, and record producer Abel Tesfaye —  better known as The Weeknd — has donated $1 million to World Food Program USA to provide 2 million meals in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction,” the Canadian of Ethopian descent said in announcing his donation.

IN THE NEWS

Haiti doesn’t yet have access to a single dose of COVID-19 vaccines. [The Guardian]

An attack on a U.N. peacekeeping base in northern Mali last week killed at least 27 people, including four peacekeepers. [AP]

Following the announcement of a $2.4 billion IMF loan to Kenya, Kenyans have circulated a petition — and begun to hassle IMF on social media — demanding that loans to Kenya be stopped, citing corruption. [BBC]

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About the author

  • Teresa Welsh

    Teresa Welsh is a Senior Reporter at Devex. She has reported from more than 10 countries and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Her coverage focuses on Latin America; U.S. foreign assistance policy; fragile states; food systems and nutrition; and refugees and migration. Prior to joining Devex, Teresa worked at McClatchy's Washington Bureau and covered foreign affairs for U.S. News and World Report. She was a reporter in Colombia, where she previously lived teaching English. Teresa earned bachelor of arts degrees in journalism and Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin.