The Express Tribune Editorial 18 December 2020

Fear of kidnapping


Some recent cases involving kidnapping and murder of children have created a sort of panic in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province. This is evident from the fact that out of the 12,230 cases of kidnapping that were registered during the past 10 months of the ongoing year, at least 6,714 cases, or 55%, were cancelled after the children involved returned home, saying they left their homes after their parents had rebuked them.
Incidents like the Kasur child pornography scandal, Zainab rape and murder, Chunian serial killings and the motorway rape have led parents to fear for the safety of their children if they disappear even for a short time. Most people confronting such a situation lodge cases with the police. The police say fake news in cyberspace is adding to the fears. Rumours are being spread that children are being abducted for sale of their organs like kidney and liver. So the police are dealing with cases of violence against children and women on a priority basis.
The fear has assumed the proportion of paranoia as incidents have also happened where fathers and mothers, accompanying their own children, have been beaten by people after the former were suspected to be child kidnappers. A combination of reality, fear and rumour has led to a situation where every fourth case registered by the police pertains to kidnapping.
Also, people increasingly fear for the safety of young as well as little girls. If girls disappear even for other reasons, parents tend to lodge kidnapping cases. Incidents have come to light where girls themselves gave statements to court that they left their homes of their own accord, hence such cases were cancelled.
The provincial police claim that in only 46 of the total registered cases, the victims have not been recovered and the kidnappers not arrested; and 2,901 cases are under investigation. Even though there is no report of people faking their own kidnapping, such incidents do happen. People do it for money as well as in property disputes



Covax programme


It appears that most of the world’s poor countries will not be able to acquire a significant amount of Covid-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) next year. News reports suggest that in some cases, vaccines may not be widely available until the year 2024 for as many as 91 poor and middle-income countries of the world that are part of the programme. Cause for particular concern: Pakistan – which ranks at 29th in terms of the number of Covid-19 cases across the world – is included among these 91 countries, and is and on it to vaccinate as much as 20 per cent of its population, according to our health officials.
In fact, nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate about 10 per cent of their populations even by the end of next year. This is despite the fact that rich countries have bought or booked enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations several times over. While we understand that much of the research for the development of the vaccine was backed by these same rich countries, and they would want to have first rights on what they paid for, we would also like to see some assurances that these countries will make concentrated efforts to share the excess vaccines with poor countries.
Still, the problems with the WHO’s COVAX programme – that is meant for equitable global access to the Covid vaccine – were not all created by rich and developed countries. Even though the programme suffers from financing problems, mismanagement has also played a significant part in the context. The programme needs cheaper vaccine options, as it has budgeted for an average cost of $5.20 per dose. Unfortunately, the two vaccines currently available – Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – cost between $20 and $40 per dose for multiple doses at full price.
Several international pharmaceutical and vaccine development companies – like AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi – have agreements with the COVAX programme for supply of a total of 400 million doses. We know that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to cost about $3 per dose, making it one the cheapest available in the market; but that vaccine, like the other two, has been delayed due to problems related to trials. None of the vaccines is expected to become widely available before the coming summer. COVAX is still essentially bound to these orders.
Meanwhile, some poor countries may still be able to put together a reliable vaccine supply from other sources – something that means that these countries would not need the supplies they had requested from COVAX. That could lead to the global WHO programme having excess supply of the vaccine which would become useless if herd immunity is achieved. Also, despite the reports suggesting all doom and gloom, we know that it is technically possible to produce and distribute enough vaccines for the entire world if funding is properly directed.
That is why it seems pretty astounding that the global programme for supply of vaccine to the poor countries of the world could let itself get to the point where it is theoretically paying to fix a problem three years after it might be resolved.
Therefore, the many affluent countries of the world that have not yet joined the Covax donors – including Britain and European Union countries as well as private charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – must understand that nobody will win the fight against Covid-19 until everybody wins.

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