South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni are set to address the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.
Access to COVID-19 vaccines has been one of the major topics of the annual meeting in New York and is likely to be one of the most discussed again Thursday as leaders from African nations make up a large portion of the day’s list of speakers.
While some countries such as the United States have had vaccine doses widely available to their populations for months, other countries have struggled to access COVID-19 vaccine supplies.
The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 4% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Ramaphosa was among a group of leaders who participated in a virtual summit Wednesday convened by U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss boosting efforts to vaccinate people all over the world. Biden announced the United States was buying another 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to distribute to other countries.
“Of the around 6 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide, only 2% of these have been administered in Africa, a continent of more than 1.2 billion people,” Ramaphosa said. “This is unjust and immoral.”
Other speakers Thursday include Iraq’s President Barham Salih, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a number of world leaders to pre-record their remarks instead of traveling to New York to speak in person. About half of Thursday’s speeches were recorded in advance.