TACOMA, Washington — On Dec. 17, 2021, 12 congressional leaders sent an open letter to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, urging the Committees to include at least $17 billion in supplemental funding for FY22 to expand the U.S.’s global COVID-19 response in order to end the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Feb. 8, 2022, the House of Representatives approved a short-term funding measure to keep the government open through mid-March 2022 in order to continue negotiations for the FY22 appropriations omnibus.
US Action to Combat COVID-19
Over the last two years, the U.S. has taken steps to combat COVID-19 by providing aid to low- and middle-income countries. In December 2020, Congress approved the allocation of $4 billion for global vaccine distribution through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Additionally, in March 2021, Congress approved $11 billion for global foreign assistance funding through the American Rescue Plan. USAID has also contributed more than $9 billion toward the global COVID-19 pandemic response.
However, there remain major funding gaps in the global response to fighting COVID-19, enough so that in October 2021, USAID provided testimony before Congress that its global resources are quickly running out. Increasing such support is more important than ever due to the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continue to threaten lives and jeopardize global poverty reduction efforts.
In order to safeguard lives and ensure that global poverty reduction continues on an upward trend, it is imperative to reduce vaccine inequities and increase worldwide vaccination rates. The December 2021 letter to Congress reads, “We must end this cycle by prioritizing getting shots in arms around the world as soon as possible, especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries, which do not have the resources to vaccinate their populations.”
The $17 billion in supplemental funding will cover vaccine delivery, including materials and resources such as PPE, support for frontline health care workers and educational campaigns, to ensure the success of last-mile efforts to distribute vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable populations.
COVID-19’s Impact on Global Poverty
Although global poverty rates were on the decline pre-pandemic, experts projected a significant increase in poverty in the wake of the pandemic — an additional 150 million impoverished people by the close of 2021. Confirming these economic struggles, a study based on data from a survey in April 2020 found that, in low- and middle-income countries, “the median share of households” facing reductions in income stood at 70%. The same study indicates that “87% of rural households” in Sierra Leone faced food insecurity, while in Kenya, “violence against women and children [increased by]4% and 13%, respectively” during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic sparked worldwide school closures, creating devastating consequences for the education of children. While wealthier countries with resources were able to implement remote learning for children to continue their education, impoverished communities in developing countries were not as fortunate. Lack of technology poses barriers to remote learning. In low- and middle-income countries, a total of 3.7 billion people do not have internet access. When COVID-19 forces schools to close and children cannot continue their education through alternative means, they miss out on crucial years of learning, increasing the likelihood of prolonged poverty.
Disruptions to Health Care Systems
Due to the pandemic’s disruptions and impacts on already fragile health systems, in developing nations, “more than twice as many women and children have lost their lives for every COVID-19 death.” Not only are health care workers suffering due to the lack of PPE and medical supplies but low vaccination rates are interrupting the abilities of nurses and doctors to adequately serve vulnerable communities without fear of a potentially fatal infection.
Considering these far-reaching consequences, the world needs to accelerate efforts to safeguard lives and end the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, the U.S. must step up as a global leader and provide supplemental funding for the COVID-19 response.
Improving vaccine distribution is essential to slow the negative effects of COVID-19 on global poverty, and ultimately, end the COVID-19 pandemic. The $17 billion in additional funding for vaccine distribution plays a crucial role in saving lives as Congress negotiates the FY22 omnibus.
If the Senate approves the House’s current funding proposal, Congress will vote to pass the FY22 budget in March 2022. If Congress does not pass the budget, a continuing resolution to authorize temporary funding must be put into effect or the U.S. will face a government shutdown. Constituents who feel passionate about expanding the U.S.’s global COVID-19 response in order to mitigate the negative consequences of the pandemic should urge their leaders to support $17 billion in funding for COVID-19 efforts. Specifically, advocates can call their representatives and mention the following:
“I’m a Borgen Project supporter and I would like [insert elected official name]to pass $17 billion in supplemental funding for Fiscal Year 2022 to scale up global vaccine delivery.”
– Aimee Eicher and Staff Reports