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Caritas Internationalis Wants COVID-19 Vaccine Production in Poor Countries Fostered

The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John.

As the 46th Regular session of the UN Human Rights Council gets underway, the leadership of the global confederation of Catholic relief agencies, Caritas Internationalis (CI) is calling on the international community to promote the local production of COVID-19 vaccine in poor countries, including those in Africa.

“Caritas Internationalis urges the international community to promote the local production of vaccines in Africa, Latin America and Asia within the next six months,” CI’s Secretary General, Aloysius John has said in his Thursday, February 25 message addressed to the leadership of the Council.

In promoting local production of vaccines among poor countries, the Secretary General also urges the leadership of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that “Technical collaboration with the poorest nations and the issues related to patents as a common good” are “addressed urgently.”

“It is our firm conviction that access to vaccines against the pandemic is a basic right but in many of these countries it will not be automatic,” the head of the over 160-member confederation notes in his February 25 message addressed to the Council’s President, Nazhat Shameem.

To ensure fair and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, the 64-year-old CI official recommends that accompanying measures “be taken to build awareness, getting the vaccine to the remotest areas all ensuring optimal storage mechanisms.”

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations, making recommendations on them.

The Council has 47 Member States elected for a three-year term by the UN General Assembly members on the basis of their promotion and protection of human rights as well as their voluntary commitments to the same.  The current membership has 13 African countries.

In his February 25 letter to the participants of the ongoing February 22-March 23 Council meeting, the Secretary General of CI urges the international community “to put the respect for human rights and human dignity at the heart of the recovery from the pandemic by ensuring easy and equal access to the vaccines.”

In view of “careful awareness building of the local communities on preventive care” Aloysius John who has been serving in his current position since May 2019 calls on the Council to ensure the allocation of “financial and technical support to local civil society organizations.”

With the global economy struggling to recover from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary General of the Italy-headquartered confederation appeals to the international leaders to “undertake the debt remission of the poorest countries and allocate funds to strengthen their national health systems.”

The Secretary General of the 124-year-old entity is the latest leader to join the global call for debt relief for poor countries amid COVID-19 challenges.

In July 2020, the Holy See through its Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, urged countries to help relieve the “crippling external debt burdens” of developing countries struggling in the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no doubt that the current COVID-19 crisis will more severely affect the lives and livelihoods of those in the developing world,” Archbishop Jurkovič told the UN trade and development board last July.

Two months later, the leadership of All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), an ecumenical fellowship with a presence in more than 40 African nations, urged its members to put their governments to task in view of addressing the growing debt crisis in their respective countries, which they said has plunged African nations in a new form of slavery and taken away their sovereignty.

On their part, Catholic Church leaders in Africa joined more than 140 other Christian groups’ representatives from across the world who called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to cancel developing nations’ debts amid COVID-19 challenges.

Meanwhile, last November, the leadership of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) encouraged the push for debt relief after Zambia’s external creditors denied the appeal by the Edgar Lungu-government for the suspension of the repayments of the Eurobonds for six months.

The recent call for the same has come from the leadership of the International Cooperation for Development Solidarity (CIDSE), an international alliance of Catholic development agencies in Europe and North America.

In the statement shared with ACI Africa February 23, CIDSE leadership appealed “for debt cancellation and financial support to poorest countries” that have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded on 9 November 1897 by German Fr. Lorenz Werthmann, Caritas Internationalis shares the mission of the Catholic Church to serve the poor and to promote charity and justice throughout the world.

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