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By Laura Bellis, Contributing Writer
The current pandemic plunged 31 million people across the globe into extreme poverty, illuminating disparities in both its impacts and in recovery efforts.
Less than 1% of COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in low income countries, hindering recovery efforts while advanced economies are expected to regain pre-pandemic per capita income levels by 2022.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s fifth annual Goal Keepers Report, released last week, lays bare the adverse effect of the pandemic on progress in combating poverty across an array of global health and economic indicators.
Report highlights pandemic’s effects on marginalized communities
This information may not be alarming to those who have followed the news closely or witnessed first-hand the disproportionate negative impacts of the pandemic on women, people of color, and people in poverty.
The report isn’t all doom and gloom. Despite the depressing quantitative data, the report also highlights significant stories of communities leveraging their strengths to survive and support one another:
“Some of the most effective interventions we’ve been tracking have happened at a hyperlocal level, headed by leaders who have worked long and hard to earn the trust of their communities— something that cannot be built overnight or in the midst of a crisis.”
Hyperlocal organizing makes progress in pandemic
The report highlights examples of building on pre-existing community infrastructure to power-through pandemic obstacles, which include women’s “self-help groups’ in Bahir, India delivering meals, providing home-based healthcare, and supporting vaccine distribution, and community health workers in Senegal going home to home to ensure children aren’t missing critical immunizations.
Without groups like those already in place, support and recovery efforts would be significantly more challenging, conveying the need, as the report’s co-chairs write, “to think in generations, not news cycles.”
The need and successes of this very same framework can be witnessed in the United States as well in efforts by trusted local organizations, like those in Tulsa.
This past Saturday, as part of events commemorating the 5th anniversary of Terence Crutcher’s tragic killing by a Tulsa police officer, the Terence Crutcher Foundation hosted an event in the heart of north Tulsa that included vaccine distribution and opportunities to support Hurricane Ida relief.
More investments needed
The Goal Keepers Report tracks progress toward objectives set to realize an end to poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change – all by 2030, a commitment made in 2015 by 193 world leaders. In this pandemic-consumed fifth edition of the report, the need for long-term investments in global and local infrastructure is explicitly conveyed as critical to achieving these ambition goals.
The report clearly shows investment is very much needed in healthcare systems and health research; decades of such investments is what made the rapid development of safe, effective vaccines possible. And the report shows that just as important are local-level intentional investments in community-building.
Trusted community groups and organizations have not only supported vaccine distribution over the past several months, but they have fed, housed, and provided access to other critical resources throughout the pandemic.
The co-chairs of the Goal Keepers Report write, “progress is possible, but not inevitable.” To ensure a resilient web of resources in the face of future catastrophic obstacles, the power of community must be acknowledged and invested in.