Crisis zones disadvantaged by weak COVID-19 response, Red Cross says

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FILE PHOTO: An internally displaced woman helps a girl put on a face mask distributed by UNICEF, at a makeshift camp, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jalalabad

(Reuters) - Countries hit hard by humanitarian crises have also been disadvantaged by a far weaker response to COVID-19 than wealthier states, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement said on Wednesday.

Countries that are not dealing with humanitarian crises have reported nearly 48 times more COVID-19 tests per capita than those facing 'severe' or 'very severe' humanitarian crises, according to a new analysis.

The 32 worst crisis-hit countries had also seen fewer than 2 percent of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered globally, it said, despite their having nearly 19 percent of the world's population.

"What our data shows is that the response to COVID-19 also discriminates," said Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The highest per capita death tolls from coronavirus have on the whole been in wealthier countries whose older populations are disproportionately likely to die from it.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement said it was launching a new plan to counter some of the more severe inequities facing crisis-hit states and in all, the appeal was seeking 2.729 billion Swiss francs (nearly $3 billion).

In Asia, its study said nearly two thirds of vaccines administered so far are in the most developed countries - including Singapore, Japan, Republic of South Korea, Australia and Thailand.

By contrast, fewer than 4% of the region's vaccine doses have gone to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan and North Korea.

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Andrew Heavens)