.
O

n January 21, his first full day in office, President Biden released a strategy to combat COVID-19 in the United States. Now the administration must move with the same urgency to lead the coronavirus fight globally.

President Biden assumes office amid widespread concern that the U.S. can no longer offer competent and consistent leadership. Spearheading the international effort to stem the pandemic and ease the damaging impacts of lockdowns will demonstrate that the new administration is prepared to assume the mantle of global leadership.

The U.S. is well-positioned to deliver on three critical areas in the global response to COVID-19.

Vaccine rollout: The U.S. enjoys historic, wide-reaching diplomatic ties that will allow the Biden administration breadth of access few countries enjoy—including access to many of the low- and middle-income countries where vaccine rollout is expected to face the longest delays. The U.S. stands to have the most significant impact in achieving global control of the virus by providing funding and logistics to countries that will not otherwise receive adequate vaccine coverage until as late as 2023.

Importantly, this outreach should include not only the COVID-19 vaccine, but also delivery of vaccines many families were forced to skip during lockdowns. In the first four months of 2020, the number of children completing a three-dose vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) fell precipitously, marking what could be the first reduction in DTP3 coverage in 28 years. According to the Gates Foundation, vaccine coverage has been set back “25 years in about 25 weeks.” If this lapse is not corrected, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will do little to reduce the health vulnerabilities of high-risk communities.

Education: According to the World Bank, the pandemic threatens to push 72 million children into learning poverty, meaning they will be unable to write or read a simple text by age ten. During the height of the pandemic, 1.6 billion children were out of school. While that number has fallen to roughly a quarter of a billion, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore warns that many of those children do not have access to online learning, effectively ending their education, and many—particularly girls—will never return to school. School closings have left behind the world’s most vulnerable students, exposing them to increased risk of child labor, trafficking, and violence at home.

Drops in education access will destabilize communities and increase the risk of violence, unemployment, and economic strife. The U.S. can support governments struggling to reopen schools by providing PPE for teachers and students and by providing technical support in devising socially distant in-person learning strategies. Fast-tracking vaccine access to U.S.-based teachers who would like to work abroad and funding teach abroad opportunities would scale up human resources and support greater capacity in countries where education systems have been most weakened by lockdowns.

Violence against women: Lockdowns led to global spikes in calls to domestic abuse help lines and increases in violence against women and girls. UN Women warns that the pandemic is exacerbating challenges women and girls faced before COVID-19, including limited political participation, insecure access to income, and high burdens of care and domestic work.  

This “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence requires both technical support and diplomatic pressure. The Biden administration must ensure governments have the resources to provide gender-based violence response services and the political will to ensure such services are designated essential. The U.S. should also model and advocate for women’s inclusion in leadership of the pandemic response, in efforts to recover the civic and political participation gains that have been lost during the health crisis.

While the new administration inherits a COVID-19 strategy tarnished by chaos and confusion, the U.S. has economic, technical, and diplomatic resources that can be brought to bear in the international fight to contain the virus worldwide. The Biden administration’s leadership on our domestic efforts to limit the spread must now extend with the same urgency to our global fight against COVID-19.

About
Carolyn Nash
:
Carolyn Nash (@caroinash) has managed international human rights and governance programs for UNESCO, UNODC, and Trocaire. She has worked in Myanmar, Indonesia, East Timor, Kenya, and Uganda.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Biden’s COVID-19 Plan Must Be Global

January 25, 2021

O

n January 21, his first full day in office, President Biden released a strategy to combat COVID-19 in the United States. Now the administration must move with the same urgency to lead the coronavirus fight globally.

President Biden assumes office amid widespread concern that the U.S. can no longer offer competent and consistent leadership. Spearheading the international effort to stem the pandemic and ease the damaging impacts of lockdowns will demonstrate that the new administration is prepared to assume the mantle of global leadership.

The U.S. is well-positioned to deliver on three critical areas in the global response to COVID-19.

Vaccine rollout: The U.S. enjoys historic, wide-reaching diplomatic ties that will allow the Biden administration breadth of access few countries enjoy—including access to many of the low- and middle-income countries where vaccine rollout is expected to face the longest delays. The U.S. stands to have the most significant impact in achieving global control of the virus by providing funding and logistics to countries that will not otherwise receive adequate vaccine coverage until as late as 2023.

Importantly, this outreach should include not only the COVID-19 vaccine, but also delivery of vaccines many families were forced to skip during lockdowns. In the first four months of 2020, the number of children completing a three-dose vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) fell precipitously, marking what could be the first reduction in DTP3 coverage in 28 years. According to the Gates Foundation, vaccine coverage has been set back “25 years in about 25 weeks.” If this lapse is not corrected, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will do little to reduce the health vulnerabilities of high-risk communities.

Education: According to the World Bank, the pandemic threatens to push 72 million children into learning poverty, meaning they will be unable to write or read a simple text by age ten. During the height of the pandemic, 1.6 billion children were out of school. While that number has fallen to roughly a quarter of a billion, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore warns that many of those children do not have access to online learning, effectively ending their education, and many—particularly girls—will never return to school. School closings have left behind the world’s most vulnerable students, exposing them to increased risk of child labor, trafficking, and violence at home.

Drops in education access will destabilize communities and increase the risk of violence, unemployment, and economic strife. The U.S. can support governments struggling to reopen schools by providing PPE for teachers and students and by providing technical support in devising socially distant in-person learning strategies. Fast-tracking vaccine access to U.S.-based teachers who would like to work abroad and funding teach abroad opportunities would scale up human resources and support greater capacity in countries where education systems have been most weakened by lockdowns.

Violence against women: Lockdowns led to global spikes in calls to domestic abuse help lines and increases in violence against women and girls. UN Women warns that the pandemic is exacerbating challenges women and girls faced before COVID-19, including limited political participation, insecure access to income, and high burdens of care and domestic work.  

This “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence requires both technical support and diplomatic pressure. The Biden administration must ensure governments have the resources to provide gender-based violence response services and the political will to ensure such services are designated essential. The U.S. should also model and advocate for women’s inclusion in leadership of the pandemic response, in efforts to recover the civic and political participation gains that have been lost during the health crisis.

While the new administration inherits a COVID-19 strategy tarnished by chaos and confusion, the U.S. has economic, technical, and diplomatic resources that can be brought to bear in the international fight to contain the virus worldwide. The Biden administration’s leadership on our domestic efforts to limit the spread must now extend with the same urgency to our global fight against COVID-19.

About
Carolyn Nash
:
Carolyn Nash (@caroinash) has managed international human rights and governance programs for UNESCO, UNODC, and Trocaire. She has worked in Myanmar, Indonesia, East Timor, Kenya, and Uganda.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.