Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan yesterday gave her maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the organ’s 76 session in New York, USA.
She began by thanking the UN for their messages of condolence following the death of Tanzania’s fifth-phase president John Magufuli on March 17, 2021.
She then moved on to talk about the global Covid-19 pandemic and how it continues to impact the globe. The head of state took the opportunity to address how Tanzania continues to grapple with the devastating impact of the virus by highlighting how the country’s economy has been hard hit by the pandemic.
She talked about the preventive measures Tanzania is taking to curb the spread of Covid-19. “My country adopted all the necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 including joining the Covax facility to ensure Tanzania gains access to the covid-19 vaccines,” she said.
She further explained; “The vaccination campaign started this July with the most vulnerable communities and later on other age groupings.”
Samia also talked of how the vaccine rollout globally has been unequal. “Mr President, globally when Covid-19 vaccines were developed some of us were hopeful that this would be something good for humanity. Nevertheless, we have come to realise that the virus is moving faster than production and distribution of vaccines as the vast majority have been administered in high and middle-income countries.”
The president acknowledged that with the current pace it is less likely that Tanzania will meet the World Health Organisation threshold to vaccinate at least 40 percent of people in every country by end of 2021 and at least 70 percent of people by the first half of 2022.
“The level of vaccine inequity that we see is appalling, it is truly disheartening to see that most of our countries have inoculated less than two percent of the population and they seek more vaccines for their people,” she said.
Samia also made a request that patent rights on Covid-19 be shared with countries so that they can afford to produce the vaccines. “This is not only the necessary move to end the pandemic but also the right thing to do in order to serve humanity.”
The head of state touched on how Tanzania has been economically impacted by the virus. “Before the pandemic our economy was growing at the steady rate of 6.9 percent instead of the current growth rate estimated at 5.4 percent. We are now embarking at reviving the tourism sector, which was badly affected because of travel restrictions put by many countries as means of curbing the spread of Covid-19.”
President Samia also talked about gender inequality and how being the first female president in Tanzania’s history puts the weight on her shoulder to ensure gender equality prevails across various sectors.
Climate change has been top of the agenda at this year’s UN summit. President Samia shed light on the impacts of climate change on a global scale. “Mr President the challenges of climate change are really affecting livelihoods, peace and security and lead to the forceful displacement of our people. The Tanzanian government spends 2 to 2.5 percent of its GDP to mitigate and build resilience of communities and this is a lot in a country which is grappling with poverty coupled with emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
Samia added that the pandemic is compromising Tanzania’s capacity to respond to the harmful impacts of climate change. “Therefore, our efforts today determine the future of our planet in terms of climate change. And on this regard, I call for the transparent modality for the financial disbursement and emphasize that developed countries should fulfil their commitments to contribute $100 billion annually by 2025 so as to facilitate implementation of the Paris agreement.”
In conclusion, President Samia echoed Tanzania’s commitment to pursuing the principles of multilateralism as enshrined in the charter of the United Nations.
“I urge other nations to continue supporting this August institution, the onset of Covid-19 has given all of us a lesson that we are deeply intertwined and that unilateralism will not get us anywhere when it comes to challenges that transcend our national boundaries.