With his country seriously lagging behind Covid vaccinations, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Tuesday berated the wealthy nations of the world at the United Nations, accusing them of hoarding vaccines while the poor “wait for droplets.”
Duterte cemented his reputation as a blunt speaker, describing the gap between rich and poor over vaccination rates as outrageous. His comments, delivered via pre-recorded video to the 193-member General Assembly, were among the strongest criticisms of the inequalities exposed by the pandemic.
Only 10 rich countries are responsible for most of the 5.86 billion vaccine doses administered to date.
“There is a man-made vaccine drought plaguing poor countries,” Mr Duterte said. “Rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines while poor countries wait for droplets. They are now talking about booster shots, while developing countries are considering half doses to get by.”
The inequality, he said, “is shocking and must be condemned for what it is: a selfish act that can be neither rationally nor morally justified.”
The Philippines has one of the lowest Covid vaccination rates in Asia, with only 16 percent of the population fully vaccinated, and infections with Delta variants have risen sharply in recent months. The country is also one of the few to have closed schools during the pandemic, increasingly disadvantaging 27 million school-aged children.
Mr Duterte has justified keeping primary and secondary schools closed by stating that students and their families should be protected from contamination. But his policies have sparked a backlash among parents and students in a sprawling nation of endemic poverty. Many people, especially in remote and rural areas, do not have access to online learning.