Religious leaders from across Africa have called on world governments to "act with compassion" and ensure that the world's most vulnerable people have access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, as US President Biden convenes world leaders at the Global COVID-19 Summit today (Thursday 12 May).
In a joint People's Vaccine Alliance statement, more than 45 African faith leaders urge politicians to remember that "we are one global family, where our problems are tightly interconnected". They call for "immediate action to address the massive l inequities in the global pandemic response.
Some of the most prominent religious leaders in Africa have added their names to the statement, including the Archbishops of five major African cities; Cape Town in South Africa, Niamey in Niger, Gaborone in Botswana, Freetown in Sierra Leone, and Kumasi in Ghana. They join senior Sheikhs, Mawlanas, Imams, Gambia's first Gambian Bishop, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum. Leading anti-apartheid figures and Muslim scholars Farid Esack and Shaykh Sa'dullah Khan have also signed the statement
Signatory Thabo Makgoba, the Archbishop of Cape Town, will speak at the summit in a side event with the United States' international religion ambassador Rashad Hussain
The leaders of major faith organizations have joined the call, including the Council of Religions, the Muslim Judicial Council, the All Africa Conference of Churches the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, Reconcile International, the Council of Churches in Zambia, CARITAS AFRICA, Ghana Conference of Religions for Peace, The Institute of Islamic Studies, and the Zimbabwe Inter Religious Council.
Signatories highlight that just one in five Africans have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine while wealthy countries roll out their third and fourth doses. They urge world leaders "not to see this as just a number, but as a reminder that each statistic represents a human being … who deserves dignity and the ability to thrive in a post-pandemic world."
"As we reflect, we are gladdened by the scientific achievements that enabled the creation of vaccines and therapeutics at a rapid scale", they say. But these tools "must be viewed as a gift for the common good and not be controlled by powerful countries and corporations, much to the detriment of people in lower-income countries."
They call on world leaders to "renew their approach" to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, by treating them "not as commodities but as public goods, which all people have the right to access". "We encourage world leaders to unite and stand in solidarity with people living in low-income countries by supporting a People's Vaccine", they say.
That requires "properly financing the global response, sharing the technology and know-how needed to produce [vaccines, tests and treatments], and removing barriers to production like intellectual property rules", they say.
Bashir Nuckchady Secretary of the Council of Religions, said: "At this time of year, we share with our community and those in need. We live in hope that world leaders might finally begin to take that same approach to the global struggle against COVID-19. To approach COVID-19 with a sense of kinship, not narrow self-interest. To support their friends and neighbors in the Global South in becoming vaccine self-sufficient and having the capacity to protect ourselves from deadly viruses, instead of having depend on charity."
Four times as many people are likely to have died from COVID-19 in lower-income countries compared to wealthy nations. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies have made $1,000 every minute, creating nine new billionaires during the pandemic.