Devex Newswire: Venezuela’s vaccine power struggle

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The COVAX Facility has secured new financial pledges, but more money is just the beginning for equitable vaccine distribution.

At its current vaccination pace, it would take Venezuela over seven years to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 — the country ranks last in Latin America for doses administered per 100 people. Those dim prospects appeared to get a boost last weekend when Venezuela’s government announced it had secured enough funding to pay into COVAX, allowing the country to access enough doses from the facility to vaccinate 20% of the population.

But with Venezuela’s vaccine rollout still caught in a political power struggle — including allegations that opponents of the government are being kept off vaccine registries — what happens next remains unclear.

Read: In Venezuela, politics overshadow COVAX shipment and vaccine rollout

EXPECTING BETTER

“We see it over and over again. There’s this inherent assumption that Western institutions can do things better, even if they may not be culturally and regionally appropriate.”

— Ngozi Erondu, associate fellow, Chatham House’s Centre on Global Health Security

A $30 million research grant from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative went to a consortium that included no African organizations. Amruta Byatnal speaks to one of the authors of an open letter that called attention to funding structures that undermine local agencies.

PMI responded to the letter by saying it “[hasn’t] done enough in working directly with local institutions” and will soon open a draft of its new strategy for public comment.

Read: 'Global health funding is far from being decolonized,' says Ngozi Erondu

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Joe Biden’s administration is trying to prove it’s a better team player than its predecessors. The U.S. government co-hosted a COVAX “investment opportunity” Wednesday, in hopes that putting its own money on the table would compel other donors to step up. Some did, to the tune of about $400 million. If the U.S. wants to be a real global leader, experts say it should release its surplus doses — a topic that Secretary of State Antony Blinken opted not to address.

• Sweden pledged $258 million for the International Finance Facility for Immunisation, Gavi’s innovative financing mechanism.

• Google.org chipped in $2.5 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment mechanism, plus another $15 million in advertising credits for Gavi, and launched a global campaign for employees to contribute directly to Gavi.

• “We need to recognize that the supply of vaccines may be an even more binding constraint than cash flow. Many countries now have dollars available to spend on doses, but rapid deliveries aren’t available,” says World Bank head David Malpass.

Read: COVAX Facility seeks an additional $2B for COVID-19 vaccines

GOING BIG

Is “big bet” philanthropy a pathway to meaningful social change, or to flooding organizations with more funding than they can absorb? Catherine Cheney speaks to Cecilia Conrad from Lever for Change, a MacArthur Foundation affiliate that works with philanthropists to design competitions for big grants.

Devex Pro: MacArthur Foundation's Cecilia Conrad on 'big bet' philanthropy

Event: How can angel investors play a role in achieving the SDGs? Tune in to LinkedIn on Monday for the conversation.

ALL TOGETHER NOW

The heads of the world’s top multilateral development banks are set to consider a $250 million joint climate facility intended to help them align with the Paris climate agreement, Vince Chadwick reports.

• The MDB leaders are meeting next week, and this facility is on the agenda document that Vince got his hands on. Ahead of COP26 and the G-20 Venice Conference on Climate, the agenda notes that MDBs are under pressure “to declare a time-bound plan on aligning their financing with the Paris Agreement.”

• The facility is designed to “significantly step-up MDBs’ support to countries and other clients to establish net zero targets and develop long-term low-greenhouse gas and climate-resilient development strategies as a key enabler of enhanced ambition.”

• Malpass has spoken repeatedly about the need to prioritize climate change action so that investments effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This facility looks like an effort by the banks to figure that out.

Read: Development banks considering $250M joint climate facility

IN THE NEWS

Oxfam has been hit with more sexual misconduct allegations, this time from its Iraq staff, whose grievances were allegedly dismissed by the charity. [The New Humanitarian]

Aid agencies operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo "implore" the U.K. foreign office to hold off planned budget cuts that could affect some 27 million people. [The Guardian]

Michele Sison, U.S. ambassador to Haiti, has been nominated for the assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs post at the State Department. [VOA]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.