Nearly 75% of all Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in wealthy nations, and yet, this hoarding has not ended the pandemic in those countries.
By M. Osman Siddique
Charity is central to most faiths. In Christianity, Jesus teaches that we will be judged, not on how beautiful our altars are, but in the way we treat others. The practice of charity is called Daana in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is the virtue of the generosity of giving. Similarly, the Jewish concepts of Tzedakah (charitable giving) and Chesed (mercy or kindness) instruct and compel all Jews to give to charity and treat people who are less fortunate with compassion. In the present crisis, I am reminded of a particular passage in the Quran in which the Prophet Muhammad said, “give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.”
Rarely has the meaning of these words been so literal and the consequences of self-interest been so immediate and devastating as we have seen in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nearly 75% of all Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in the world’s wealthiest nations, and yet, this hoarding of vaccines has not ended the pandemic in wealthy countries. The United States, Australia, France, and the United Kingdom are all experiencing their highest daily cases of the pandemic.
The Omicron variant, like the Delta variant before it, has once again demonstrated the importance of international cooperation – and the necessity of charity. The Omicron variant may not have emerged in the United States, but it took less than two months from when the new variant was first identified by South Africa to cross the Atlantic and become the dominant strain of the coronavirus here in America. What happens in South Africa or India, or my home country of Bangladesh, can have devastating effects throughout the world. So, I repeat, give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.
We must vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to slow the spread of Covid-19 and reduce the likelihood of new, even more dangerous variants. Let Omicron be the final lesson: we cannot hoard vaccines and end the pandemic solely within our borders. We must share these miraculous vaccines with those who are less fortunate, and in doing so, we will help ourselves.
Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States has already donated more than three times as many doses as any other country in the world. These doses are being delivered around the world, for free, with no strings attached. The United States is also the largest donor to COVAX, and the Biden administration has taken a leading role in persuading our allies around the world to expand their commitments to the global pandemic response. I commend the President for his crucial leadership on this front.
However, the Omicron variant has shown us that we need to do even more and faster than ever before. COVAX has fallen far behind schedule, and the U.S. Agency for International Development reported to Congress in October that they are running out of money. Now is not the time for half-measures. We must do what is necessary to end this pandemic globally at once.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, the author of the NOVID (No More Covid) Act, in conjunction with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and bicameral leaders of the newly formed Covid-19 Global Vaccination Caucus, have called for an additional $17 billion in funding to accelerate and expand the global pandemic response.
I am encouraged that some Members of Congress are proposing bold solutions to address this problem. Most notably, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, the author of the NOVID (No More Covid) Act, in conjunction with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and bicameral leaders of the newly formed Covid-19 Global Vaccination Caucus, have called for an additional $17 billion in funding to accelerate and expand the global pandemic response. Specifically, this funding would be used to deliver much needed Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics and equipment to some of the poorest nations on earth. Not only will this funding help save tens of thousands of lives around the world, it will also prevent the emergence of new variants, effectively saving tens of thousands of lives here in the United States.
It should come as no surprise that this legislation is endorsed by faith-based organizations in the U.S. and across the world, including Islamic Relief USA, American Jewish World Service, American Friends Services Committee, Mennonite Central Committee U.S., The United Methodist Church, and Buddhist Global Relief. Congress must pass this robust global vaccination funding in any future spending package.
Mr. President, your faith and humility are well known. As a man of faith, myself, I respectfully offer this lesson from the Quran – give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity – and I urge you to act on your conscience and do whatever appropriate and necessary to end this pandemic before the next variant invades our shores from abroad.
(Osman Siddique is currently a Senior Advisor at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. He previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji and to the Republic of Nauru, to the Kingdom of Tonga, and to Tuvalu from 1999 to 2001. He is a Bangladeshi-American immigrant and the first American-Muslim to be appointed as an Ambassador and Chief of Mission from the United States anywhere. His memoir, Leaps of Faith, was published in 2020.)
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