House Resolution Hopes to Fight COVID-19 and Poverty in Africa

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CHANTILLY, Virginia — On March 17, 2021, Representative Karen Bass [D-CA] introduced H.Res. 245 to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Committee members sent it to the House of Representatives for consideration on March 25. As a simple resolution, H.Res. 245 calls for the commendation of African frontline healthcare employees. It calls on Congress and the executive branch to provide African countries with assistance in their efforts to combat COVID-19 and poverty in Africa.

What the Resolution Advocates For

Unlike bills sent to the House for debate, simple resolutions like H.Res. 245 are only agreed upon in the chambers where they were introduced. Thus, the resolution will not be voted on in a different chamber and will not have the force of law. Instead of creating a precedent, simple resolutions apply pressure to other levels of government by offering policy or business recommendations. Specifically, H.Res. 245 will:

  • Urge the House of Representatives to recognize how preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Africa is of interest to the United States.
  • Pressure the U.S. and other members of the G20 intergovernmental group to continue investing in vaccine distribution. This will limit deaths through international collaboration. Further, Representative Bass and her cosponsors push for the U.S. to sustain support for organizations such as the Global Fund, the GAVI Alliance and the COVAX facility. These organizations help combat the effects of COVID-19 internationally. 
  • Request that the U.S. government partner its Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the African Union (AU) to address and dismantle barriers to healthcare for civilians. The resolution will also advocate for continued scientific research on COVID-19 in Africa.
  • Advise that both AU members and African governments provide civilians with equal access to adequate treatment, information and related essentials. H.Res. 245 also calls for the incorporation of human rights initiatives into Africa’s COVID-19 response.

Why Relief Efforts are Needed in Africa

Besides subverting the spread of variants and eradicating the virus, efforts to bolster Africa’s COVID-19 response hold a direct link to poverty alleviation. While levels vary with each country, it is estimated that 490 million Africans, or about 36% of the continent, currently live in extreme poverty. The impact of the pandemic is likely to put 59 million more individuals at risk of falling below the poverty line.

Income losses are evidence of the pandemic’s disastrous economic effects. In a World Bank survey conducted in Ethiopia, 55% of rural households reported income losses from March to August 2020. Losses were more drastic in Nigeria, as 79% of Nigerians surveyed reported decreases in income. Most African countries suffer from an insufficient number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. This results in an unstable medical infrastructure that struggles to contain the pandemic and help those in need.

The impact of poverty on children further shows the troubling repercussions of COVID-19 Africa. Due to the effects of school closures, food insecurity, inadequate healthcare systems and income losses, the number of poverty-stricken children aged 17 and under in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by 10% from the beginning of 2020.

Children and families pushed into poverty grapple with the threat of poor health because they cannot afford proper medical services. Thus, impoverished civilians are ill-prepared to combat COVID-19 and preventable diseases.

H.Res. 245 Combats COVID-19 and Poverty in Africa

These issues only scratch the surface of the impact of COVID-19 and poverty in Africa. The extent of both indicates the deficiency of humanitarian aid in the region. While organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank contributed financial support, it has not been enough. These organizations only distributed 63% and 12% of their approved funding, respectively. These statistics further illustrate the need for partnership between the AU and U.S., as described in H.Res. 245. With 37 cosponsors and support from both parties, the resolution demonstrates a bipartisan effort to fight COVID-19 and employ relief efforts in Africa.

– Riya Sharma
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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