“Not on my watch!” The math wasn’t good enough for Sara Hildebrand. The COVAX plan to bring 1 billion doses of vaccine to people in the developing world would reach less than 20 percent of world’s poorest people in 2021. “The world needs people of faith to raise a collective voice,” thought the founder of Millennium Kids, an organization promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
A Canadian campaign called “Love My Neighbour” (LMN) was born. Sara Hildebrand and advisors gathered faith leaders across traditions – and children – to raise money to increase the number of doses for the world’s poorest people.
In the name of Mennonite World Conference, members have contributed Can$56 470 to the Love My Neighbour campaign, and US$26 189.30 to the USA Interfaith Movement to End the Pandemic campaign LMN inspired – all supporting UNICEF’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
These funds will do more than bring vaccination. In a press conference with Sara Hildebrand and Canadian Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan, Dr. Aboubacar Kampo, Director of Health Programmes, UNICEF, says the organization is strengthening health systems to become more resilient.
Donated doses are flowing in 2022: COVAX plans to bring 4.1 billion doses to people in developing countries to reach close to 70 percent of the world’s population. The recommended Can$25 donation to UNICEF the Love My Neighbour campaign now funds vaccine absorption for 20 doses: personal protective equipment (PPE), cold storage, transportation, even training to fragile health systems.
The Love My Neighbour campaign continues. Targets have not yet been reached.
“This is a golden opportunity to strengthen health systems for all,” says Dr. Aboubacar Kampo. But a continuing challenge is to develop “trust to take the vaccines.”
“We need to use networks of civil society to reach heart of community,” he says. Church leaders can share credible information and help members think clearly and assess carefully.
The ministry of health in Zimbabwe exhorts: “COVID-19 is real: get vaccinated, mask up, maintain handwashing, social distancing and use of sanitisers!” For the country of more than 14 million, COVAX has shipped just under 4 million doses as of press time.
“There are vaccines now for those who need them,” says Barbara Nkala, MWC regional representative for Southern Africa. There were numerous deaths in June-September 2021, before vaccines were widely available. Some people remain reluctant.
Many church leaders advocate for vaccination, she says, “but you can’t force people.”