On July 13-14, 2021, the Mid-term Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement took place online. At the end of the Ministerial Conference, a political declaration was issued. One of the major themes mentioned in the declaration was the challenges faced by the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 virus has so far – by June 2021 – infected 179 million people globally and contributed to 3.9 million deaths.
The political declaration expressed serious concern over the rapid spread of COVID-19, which continues to pose a major challenge to humanity and stated that combating COVID requires a global response based on unity, solidarity and renewed multilateral cooperation. The developing countries have suffered the most as a result of the COVID crisis due to its harsh health, economic as well as social impacts.
The political declaration recognised the unprecedented effects of the pandemic, including the severe disruption to societies and economies, as well as to global travel and commerce, and the devastating impact on the livelihood of people. The political declaration also allayed concerns at the fact that the poorest and most vulnerable have been and continue to be the hardest hit by the pandemic and that the impact of the crisis has reversed hard-won development gains and hamper progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Another challenge facing the developing world is the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 vaccine inequity will have a lasting and profound impact on socio-economic recovery in low- and lower-middle income countries without urgent action to boost supply and assure equitable access for every country. In some low- and middle-income countries, less than 1 per cent of the population is vaccinated. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO remarks in this context: “Vaccine inequity is the world’s biggest obstacle to ending this pandemic and recovering from COVID-19. Economically, epidemiologically and morally, it is in all countries’ best interest to use the latest available data to make lifesaving vaccines available to all”.
NAM too echoes this view and the political declaration by the NAM Ministers expressed deep concern on the ongoing challenges of uneven access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable COVID-19 vaccines, and the difficulties that the majority of countries face in accessing and supplying these to their populations.
The political declaration emphasised that in the face of this type of global emergency, the spirit of solidarity must be at the centre of global efforts and a high level of ethical and humanist commitment is required, where solidarity and selfless cooperation prevail in order to provide the peoples in need with medicines, medical equipment and supplies, food, exchange of expertise and good practices.
The declaration recognised the importance of maintaining the continued functioning of the health system and strengthening primary health care in all relevant aspects necessary for an effective public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing epidemics, including by ensuring the continuation of undisrupted vaccination programmes, with the view to achieving universal health coverage, and note with concern the disparity in distribution of safe, quality, efficacious, effective, accessible and affordable COVID-19 vaccines between high-income and low- and middle income countries, which prevents the entire international community to achieve the complete elimination of the pandemic as soon as possible.
The Movement welcomed the efforts of countries that have donated COVID-19 vaccines, and encouraged further sharing of vaccines doses from all countries in a position to do so, without politicization to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need, particularly through COVAX, including on the basis of the WHO allocation framework, for fair access and equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccines health products.
By Dr. Pawan Mathur
Photo Credit : https://twitter.com/NAMChairAZ/status/1414978872249044993/photo/1