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UN chief joins world leaders in calling for investment to end pandemic this year******United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the virtual launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) advocacy campaign for 2022 in New York, on Feb. 9, 2022. Guterres on Wednesday joined world leaders in calling for urgent investment to end the COVID-19 pandemic this year. (Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)  United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the virtual launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) advocacy campaign for 2022 in New York, on Feb. 9, 2022. Guterres on Wednesday joined world leaders in calling for urgent investment to end the COVID-19 pandemic this year. (Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday joined world leaders in calling for urgent investment to end the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The pandemic could be defeated this year but "only if vaccines, tests and treatments are made available to all people," the UN chief said.

The top UN official was among some world leaders calling for 23 billion U.S. dollars to support the ACT-Accelerator, the landmark collaboration that makes these goods accessible to everyone globally.

"Vaccine inequity is the biggest moral failure of our times - and people are paying the price," said Guterres, underlining the urgency to act now.

"Until and unless we can ensure access to these tools, the pandemic will not go away, and the sense of insecurity of people will only deepen."

The ACT-Accelerator was established in April 2020, just weeks after the pandemic was declared, to speed up development and access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The global vaccine solidarity initiative COVAX is one of its four pillars.

The partnership brings together governments, scientists, philanthropists, businesses, civil society and global health organizations such as GAVI, the vaccine alliance; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the UN's health agency, World Health Organization (WHO).

The campaign launched on Wednesday aims to meet a 16 billion dollar financing gap, and nearly 7 billion dollars for in-country delivery costs, in the bid to end the pandemic as a global emergency this year.

The co-chairs of the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council, which provides high-level political leadership to advocate for resource mobilization, recently wrote to more than 50 rich countries to encourage "fair share" contributions.

The financing framework is calculated on the size of their national economies and what they would gain from a faster global economic and trade recovery.

As Guterres put it: "If we want to ensure vaccinations for everyone to end this pandemic, we must first inject fairness into the system."

The funding will help to curb coronavirus transmission, break the cycle of variants, relieve overburdened health workers and systems, and save lives, world leaders said, warning that with every month of delay, the global economy stands to lose almost four times the investment the ACT-Accelerator needs.

Financing will be used to procure and provide lifesaving tools, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, to low and middle-income countries.

It will support measures that include driving vaccine rollouts, creating a Pandemic Vaccine Pool of 600 million doses, purchasing 700 million tests, procuring treatments for 120 million patients, and 100 percent of the oxygen needs of low-income countries.

"The longer inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments persists, the longer the pandemic will persist," said President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who co-chairs the Facilitation Council together with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

The UN and partners continue to warn against the dangers of inequity three years into the pandemic.

Although more than 4.7 billion COVID-19 tests have been administered globally so far, WHO report only around 22 million, a paltry 0.4 percent, were administered in low-income countries.

Furthermore, only 10 percent of people in these nations have received at least one vaccine dose.

Since its inception, the ACT-Accelerator has funded vital research and development of new therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics, and delivered over a billion vaccine doses through COVAX, among other achievements.

The mechanism has an overall budget of 23.4 billion dollars and donors are urged to contribute 16.8 billion dollars. They have already pledged 814 million dollars, leaving the 16 billion dollars funding gap. It is expected that the remaining 6.5 billion dollars will be self-financed by middle-income countries.

Separate to the budget, another 6.8 billion dollars is required for in-country delivery of vaccines and diagnostics.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has underlined the urgent need to ensure tests, treatments and vaccines are distributed equitably globally.

"If higher-income countries pay their fair share of the ACT-Accelerator costs, the partnership can support low and middle-income countries to overcome low COVID-19 vaccination levels, weak testing, and medicine shortages," he said.

"Science gave us the tools to fight COVID-19; if they are shared globally in solidarity, we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency this year."

Russia says it has seized Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant******

Russia has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that its forces have taken control of the territory around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said Wednesday.

Grossi said in a statement that Russian diplomats in Vienna told the IAEA that personnel at the Zaporizhzhia plant – Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant – have continued their work on providing nuclear safety and monitoring radiation in normal mode of operation, and "the radiation levels remain normal."

The Zaporizhzhia plant has six out of Ukraine's 15 nuclear energy reactors, according to the statement.

Ukraine reported to the IAEA on Wednesday that the country's nuclear power plants have continued normal operation, and its nuclear regulatory authorities have maintained communication with its nuclear facilities, the IAEA chief said.

Grossi has repeatedly stressed that any military or other action that could threaten the safety or security of Ukraine's nuclear power plants must be avoided.

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Desmond Tutu, South Africa's moral compass******

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died yesterday at the age of 90, was the moral compass of his beloved "Rainbow Nation," never afraid to speak truth to power, whatever its creed or color.。

A tireless activist, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for combatting white minority rule in his country.。

"The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation's farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa," President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement.。

Famously outspoken, even after the fall of the racist apartheid regime, Tutu never shied away from confronting South Africa's shortcomings or injustices.。

"It's a great privilege, it's a great honor that people think that maybe your name can make a small difference," he said shortly before his 80th birthday in 2011.。

Whether taking on his church over gay rights, lobbying for Palestinian statehood or calling out South Africa's ruling African National Congress on corruption, his high-profile campaigns were thorny and often unwelcome.。

None at the top were spared – not even his close friend, late president Nelson Mandela, with whom Tutu sparred in 1994 over what he called the ANC's "gravy train mentality."

Yet "the Arch" brought an exuberant playfulness to all his endeavours.。

Quick to crack jokes – often at his own expense – he was always ready to dance and laugh uproariously with an infectious cackle that became his trademark.。

It was Tutu who coined and popularized the term "Rainbow Nation" to describe South Africa when Mandela became president. At the time, Tutu was serving as the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town.。

Ordained at 30 and appointed archbishop in 1986, he used his position to advocate for international sanctions against apartheid, and later to lobby for rights globally.。

Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and underwent repeated treatment. He had retired a year earlier to lead a harrowing journey into South Africa's brutal past, as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.。

For 30 months, the commission lifted the lid on the horrors of apartheid. Tutu, with his instinctive humanity, broke down and sobbed at one of its first hearings.。

Born in the small town of Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, on October 7, 1931, Tutu was the son of a domestic worker and a school teacher.。

Following in his father's footsteps, he trained as a teacher before the inferior education system set up for black children prompted him to become a priest.。

He lived for a while in Britain, where, he recalled, he would needlessly ask for directions just to be called "Sir" by a white policeman.。

Tutu believed firmly in the reconciliation of black and white South Africans.。

"I am walking on clouds. It is an incredible feeling, like falling in love. We South Africans are going to be the Rainbow People of the world," he said in 1994.。

But post-apartheid South Africa increasingly became a source of his despair, as the high hopes of the early days of democracy gave way to disillusionment, violence, inequality and graft.。

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