Friday, June 18

Education for girls and vaccines can save Africa from disaster | Phillip inman

TThere are so many good causes in the world that it is often difficult to know where the aid money should go. As leaders line up to attend the G7 summit in Cornwall, the most effective destinations for aid money have become clearer: a global vaccination program and improved education for girls.

This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa, where many things can go wrong in the next 10 years: a population explosion, massive loss of biodiversity, desertification, famine, and mass migration, to name just a few, that unless we focus our efforts on vaccines. and girls’ education, anything done to alleviate poverty or address the climate emergency will be threatened or even sabotaged in almost every other region of the world.

As the leaders arrive in Carbis Bay, they may still be embroiled in an unseemly fight over vaccine patents that could thwart any hope for a global vaccination program. In the blue corner is Germany, which prides itself on being the father of the most successful anti-Covid drug – the Pfizer-licensed BioNTech vaccine, and what is expected to be the next big thing, the CureVac vaccine, which could take just a few minutes. days. far from obtaining European approval.

Like BioNTech, the CureVac version is based on messenger RNA (mRNA), a technology that has so far been shown to be more efficient and more stable than that advocated by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

US President Joe Biden is in the red corner, calling for patents to be waived in the fight against the disease. Germany says no, seeing a cynical plot by the United States to undermine its first big success in an industry previously dominated by the American pharmaceutical industry.

Both sides are right, but the bigger picture is that the shareholders and bosses of many pharmaceutical companies have become obscenely rich through terrible suffering and should give up their patents for the common good.

It can be upsetting for Germans to be asked to make a sacrifice when American drug companies have ignored vaccines for decades and fought fiercely to maintain patents for HIV antiretroviral therapies, but there is a higher calling.

On Monday morning, the government’s foreign aid cuts will come under scrutiny after Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell managed to force a Commons vote. Last year, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that the UK would cut aid spending from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%, a reduction of more than £ 4 billion. The newly integrated Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is accused of reducing funding for some programs by 85% or more.

Earlier this year, Raab indicated that bilateral aid to Africa would be £ 764 million, which critics denounced after government statistics showed that in 2019 Africa received £ 2.4 billion in bilateral aid. Lady Sugg accused Raab of cutting funding for girls’ education by more than 40%. The conservative former foreign minister also claimed the government planned to shut down its flagship integrated sexual health program for women (Wish) and cut spending on the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition by as much as 80%.

FCDO officials are putting together new targets to fund girls’ sexual health and education, and they say about half of the UK’s bilateral aid is going to Africa, but they probably know they don’t have the funds to carry. out a fraction of what it takes. .

And that’s a huge blow to African governments, all of whom are fighting to get girls back to education after the pandemic. Without education, girls will not be able to get paid work or be independent.

All studies show that when women gain control of their lives, they also gain control of their bodies and have fewer children. The population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase from 1.1 billion to about 2 billion by 2050 and is one of the main drivers of world population growth toward 10 billion.

Julia Gillard, Former Prime Minister of Australia, Advocates for Girls’ Education as Sponsor of International Education Nonprofit One hundred (the campaign for girls’ education), possibly the most important aid agency at the moment.

African leaders are keenly aware of the benefits to be derived from girls’ education, from immediate economic income to broader benefits for the planet.

What they lack are resources, and the pandemic will be a major setback, making it harder to attract girls to school, especially when their families are struggling to make ends meet without more help at home.

Expect more than 30 conservative rebels to join Labor, Liberal Democrats and other right-minded MPs in defeating government aid cuts, and world leaders to drop their animosity over vaccines. There is a catastrophe to avoid.

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