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Interview with ONE’s Justin McCauley


ONE (also known as ONE Campaign) is known around the globe principally because of one of its founders, Bono the musician. It describes itself as a nonpartisan, non-profit advocacy campaign organisation with a focus on extreme poverty in mainly poor areas of the world like Africa. Its campaign against the famine in Ethiopia and Bono’s visit to that country in 1984 stamped the organisation on the consciousness of the world. This week Patriotic Vanguard Editor Gibril Koroma interviewed Justin McCauley (photo), ONE Canada’s Interim Campaigns and Media manager. Here is how it went:

Gibril Koroma: Please tell our readers who you are and what you do.

Justin McAuley: ONE is a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, so that everyone, everywhere can lead a life of dignity and opportunity.

We believe the fight against poverty isn’t about charity, but about justice and equality.

Whether lobbying political leaders in world capitals or running cutting-edge grassroots campaigns, ONE pressures governments to do more to fight extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, and empowers citizens to hold their governments to account.

ONE’s supporters are crucial to this work. They come from every walk of life and from across the political spectrum. They’re artists and activists, faith and business leaders, students and scientists. They take action day in, day out — organizing, mobilizing, educating, and advocating so that people will have the chance not just to survive, but to thrive.

ONE teams in Abuja, Berlin, Brussels, Dakar, Johannesburg, London, New York, Ottawa, Paris and Washington DC, educate and lobby governments to shape policy solutions that save and improve millions of lives — and which every year are under threat from cuts and other priorities.

Co-founded by Bono (from U2) and other activists, ONE is strictly nonpartisan. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funds. ONE is funded almost entirely by foundations, individual philanthropists and corporate partners.

GK: It is strange to hear that Canada has so many vaccines and yet it’s considering throwing away some of them. Why can’t we just send them to other countries? Maybe the problem is shipment costs.

JM: Rich countries have pre-ordered more COVID-19 vaccine doses than they need to vaccinate their entire populations, leaving little or none for poorer countries.

Canada alone has pre-purchased enough doses to fully vaccinate each Canadian 5 times.

Right now, over 60% of the world’s population live in countries that won’t see widespread vaccine coverage until 2022 or even later, allowing the virus to continue to mutate and thrive. We all desperately want to get back to some kind of normal life, but if less wealthy countries don’t have access to vaccines, it will prolong the pandemic and drag down the global economy for everyone.

As the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, COVAX has proven it works. However, COVAX is undersupplied because wealthy countries like Canada reserved more vaccine doses than needed, while the most vulnerable in lower income countries wait.

It makes the most sense if Canada ensures that extra doses are not delivered to Canada (where they could expire before starting a whole new journey to other countries), and instead go directly through COVAX to countries that still need them the most.

Deaths from COVID-19 in Africa are surging, with the average daily number of confirmed deaths ticking past 1,000 for the first time since the pandemic began. Confirmed deaths from the virus have increased by 80% in the past four weeks, driven by the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant. In Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, six people are dying per day and the positivity rate of those being tested has increased eightfold in the last month. Lagos’ governor said “the situation at hand should rightly alarm all of us.” In Senegal, hospitals’ demand for medical oxygen is so high that delivery workers are working through the night to keep up. Across West Africa, there are reports of cemeteries being inundated as funeral numbers rise.

Meanwhile, the African continent is set to miss the target of vaccinating 10% of its population by the end of the year. “This should be a scar on all our consciences,” according to the WHO’s Bruce Aylward. We at ONE couldn’t agree more. With only 1.8% of the population fully vaccinated, Africa remains the least vaccinated region in the world, leaving millions needlessly exposed to the virus. Aylward went on to say that if the 4 billion vaccine doses administered globally to date had been prioritised for those aged over 60 around the world, “we basically could have gotten two doses into everybody at highest risk of severe consequences.”

The astoundingly unequal global vaccine rollout is no accident. Wealthy nations simply haven’t done enough to ensure sufficient supplies of vaccines for low-income countries. The IPPPR this week gave a damning assessment of wealthy countries’ efforts to distribute the doses they’ve hoarded. IPPPR Co-Chair Helen Clark said “some commitments have been made but much more needs to be done,” adding that “vaccine inequity is a key factor in the wave of death we’re seeing across Africa, Asia and Latin America.” To put it in perspective, while Namibia has run out of vaccines completely, the US has so much surplus that millions of their doses could soon expire on the shelves.

Notwithstanding the above, some high-income countries are gearing up to hoard yet more (!) of the global vaccine supply for possible booster doses, as concern regarding the Delta and Lambda variants abounds. The WHO this week called for a moratorium on booster shots until the end of September to allow low-income countries to vaccinate 10% of their populations first. Scientists haven’t even come to consensus on whether booster shots are even necessary – what can you say…

Double trouble: Nigeria has been hit with a deadly outbreak of cholera just as COVID-19 cases in the country reached their highest levels since March. Health systems in the north of the country, already overwhelmed by rising COVID-19 cases, have been left reeling from the resurgence of the disease, which is spread by contaminated water. Over 650 people have died, as political instability in the north, where the government is battling Islamist militants, is also hindering the authorities’ ability to react.

GK: Please let us know the aims and objectives of your organisation and about its participation in the fight against Covid-19.

JM: Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic will take all of us. Let’s stand as one and urge world leaders to join a global pandemic response plan.

The fastest way to end the COVID-19 pandemic is to ensure vaccines are available to everyone, everywhere. But, people living in the world’s poorest countries are being left behind.

If the vaccine isn’t everywhere, this pandemic isn’t going anywhere. We need to prepare for the future in order to defeat coronavirus and future global health threats. That means building the capacity of all countries to prevent, detect and respond to global health threats. None of us is safe unless all of us are safe.

GK: Have you had any successes in your advocacy over the years?

JM: ONE exists because we believe where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live. We work to mobilize citizens’ voices to tackle the root causes of poverty.

GK: How do you see the fight against the pandemic in third world countries currently and in the months and years to come?

JM: Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on our lives, our economies and societies. While the virus is affecting everyone, it will reserve its worst for the most vulnerable whether they live across the street or across the ocean. Viruses don’t pay attention to borders or geography, so neither can we. People need to keep standing together, supporting each other, and acting on the simple premise that this pandemic is bigger than all of us and we’ll defeat it if we stand and act as one. This is the right thing to do. But it’s also the smart thing to do. A response that leaves out the poorest people, refugees, and the vulnerable wherever they are will mean this virus is still a threat to everyone.

Last week, we brought you the rather depressing news that the Global Education Summit fell $1 billion short of its funding targets. Now, new evidence suggests that children in Africa could suffer up to 2.8 years of learning loss as a result of the pandemic, with short-term learning losses in sub-Saharan Africa already hitting one year. Africa is facing a crisis while in Canada, doses are wasted. Analysis from the ONE team shows that up to 42 million excess vaccines risk being stockpiled or wasted in Canada by the end of the year.

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