Trudeau promises $ 300 million to fight COVID-19 abroad

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OTTAWA –
Canada contributed $ 300 million to the international fight against COVID-19 on Saturday, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined fellow leaders, activists and philanthropists in calling for a vaccine to be distributed to the world’s poorest people . Trudeau announced the new funds in another virtual international fundraiser – this one sponsored by an organization, Global Citizen, which has raised nearly $ 9.5 billion in pledges.

“COVID-19 has changed the lives of people around the world and has highlighted inequalities around the world,” said Trudeau. “None of us have been spared the effects of COVID-19 and none of us can beat it alone. ”

Canada’s contribution includes $ 180 million to address the immediate humanitarian and developmental effects of the pandemic and $ 120 million for a new initiative called the COVID-19 Access to Accelerator (ACT).

The ACC Accelerator was created in April by the World Health Organization, the French government, the European Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ensure equitable access to medical treatment. It supports organizations, health professionals and businesses in their efforts to develop a vaccine, as well as drug therapies and diagnostic tools to fight the pandemic.

Trudeau said the pandemic has hit particularly vulnerable populations particularly hard and that the ACT accelerator will ensure that when a vaccine is found, it will be able to reach everyone who needs it.

“We are also committed to working with countries around the world on how we can pool supply efforts to ensure that all countries have access to the vaccine,” said Trudeau.

Sir Andrew Witty, former CEO of British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, said that a vaccine would normally take 10 to 15 years to develop, but the COVID-19 epidemic is forcing companies and universities to find one or more viable vaccines in a tenth that time, or faster.

Witty said the pandemic has forced unprecedented cooperation between “industrial partners, biotechnology companies, government, universities” to quickly find new treatments and a vaccine.

“It’s a really, really difficult thing to try. We all do our best, but there are no guarantees, “said Witty at the conference.

“No country can be an island in this situation. It’s not great to be the only country to be safe if everyone you trade with is still in trouble because the trade will not be there. ”

There is widespread concern that President Donald Trump may take a stand-alone approach if a vaccine is discovered in the United States first.

However, Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, offered an olive branch to the conference when she announced Washington’s new promise of nearly $ 750 million.

“Together, we must work in an open, transparent and united way to build a safer and more resilient world,” said Craft, who was previously Trump’s envoy to Canada.

“We must be the true multilateralist in the best sense of the word, working for the common good”.

Julia Anderson, Chief Operating Officer of the Canadian Partnership for Women’s and Children’s Health, said that the ACT accelerator is the “robust mechanism” that the world needs to coordinate the fight against the pandemic while supporting the systems health services from vulnerable countries.

“It is becoming a one stop shop,” said Anderson, adding that the ACT is largely a work in progress. “The aircraft is under construction during flight. ”

His group and two anti-poverty organizations – Results Canada and the One campaign – say that Canada should spend one percent of its COVID-19 spending programs on international aid.

They say it would require an increase of at least $ 1.5 billion in Canada’s foreign aid budget, which stands at around $ 5 billion.

“Today’s promise was important, but we are still a long way from reaching that mark. But this is a marathon, not a sprint, so we hope there is more to come and (we) will continue to push for Canadian leadership, “said Chris Dendys, the chief executive. Director of Results Canada.

Aid agencies and anti-poverty groups attribute the Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, one of the strongest advocates for their sector to the federal cabinet table.

“We are pleased to see Minister Gould push for more investment because it desperately needs more,” said Stuart Hickox, Canadian director of the One campaign.

Gould has repeatedly emphasized that the safety of Canadians is linked to the successful phase-out of COVID-19 abroad and that there can be no reduction in existing spending, otherwise there could be new surges in preventable diseases like tuberculosis, polio and malaria.

“What keeps me awake at night is not just the immediate needs of the pandemic, but the collateral damage if we divert our attention from our core business,” Gould told Canadian Press on Friday.

Global Citizen claims to be the largest anti-poverty advocacy group in the world, and it organized the donors’ conference on Saturday as well as an evening concert strewn with stars that will be broadcast live worldwide.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 27, 2020.

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