This week 40 women leaders from Australia’s leading church denominations and Christian organisations have joined together in Canberra, addressing what they say is increasingly a ‘two-track pandemic’, with richer countries having access to vaccines and poorer ones being left behind.
With every mainline denomination represented, the leaders met with Senior Ministers and Members of Parliament from both major political parties, drawing their attention to the issue of global vaccine equity and the most urgent knock-on impacts of the pandemic on the world’s lower income nations: rising extreme poverty, famine, and the further marginalisation of vulnerable groups.
We have made remarkable progress to end poverty during the last 20 years, with over 1 billion people being lifted from extreme poverty. However, this COVID-19 pandemic threatens to undo our hard won progress. For the first time in decades, global hunger is on the rise and an additional 150 million people are expected to be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of 2021.
“An additional 10,000 children each month are dying as a result of COVID-19 related hunger.”
The delegation impressed upon the leaders they met that the moral, health, and economic case all point towards Australia and other wealthy nations continuing to increase their efforts to help end COVID for all.
“We know this pandemic doesn’t end for anyone, until it ends for everyone. As the virus is allowed to mutate in lower income countries with low vaccination rates, it risks boomeranging back to Australia, jeopardising both our health security and economic recovery. As Tearfund’s Advocacy Director, Jo Knight who represented Tearfund in Canberra shared;
We have a voice as Christian leaders and love moves us to action. We unite across the Church to call on our politicians to build a more just, compassionate and sustainable society so that all may flourish.
Despite the provision of significant temporary measures of over $1.3 billion in additional aid financing to help our neighbours respond and recover from the pandemic, Australia continues to tumble down the ‘global aid generosity rankings’ (which looks at a nation’s aid budget relative to its Gross National Income) - falling from 14th in 2015, to 21st in 2020 out of the 29 richest nations in the world.
Australia is leading the world in its comeback from the COVID-19 global pandemic and recession. And according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, our economy has now recovered to be above pre-pandemic levels. Yet at a time when the world is facing an unprecedented crisis, Australia’s temporary boost in its aid budget does not equate to a sustained commitment to increased generosity.
These leaders believe it is time for this to change, and are in Canberra to raise their voice for justice.