Un-vaxed and uneducated: a recipe for global downturn, not global recovery

A joint statement from Sarah Brown, Chair, Theirworld, and Justin van Fleet, President, Theirworld.

At a time when we should be looking forward to a global recovery focused on a return to school and booming economies, world leaders are poised to miss a once-in-a-century opportunity to invest in the next generation.

For countries around the world to recover from the crippling impact of the pandemic, getting every citizen vaccinated and every young person back into education is paramount.

With trillion-dollar recovery packages on the table, it seems trivial that seven of the most powerful countries in the world cannot agree to set aside billions to make vaccines universally available to the poorest and help the most marginalized girls and boys – who have borne the brunt of the pandemic – get a quality education.

The G7 meeting of Foreign Ministers this week appears to be smoke and mirrors, with little evidence that leaders are prepared to rise up to the challenge with the level of investment needed to propel the world forward. A target was announced for girls’ education with a gaping hole: no plan for 90% of the poorest children in the world. 

The UK has been silent on a major innovative financing plan for education it once championed, capable of creating hundreds of millions of school places for a fraction of the cost. And despite the pressure, there is still no comprehensive agreement for funding vaccines – all this while the leader of the G7 slashed its aid to UNICEF by 60% over the weekend.

There are well-researched playbooks already in place that these leaders can adopt to form a stronger recovery plan. A comprehensive G7 recovery package is in everyone’s best interest.

Sound economic growth will be impossible if less than 1% of people in lower-income countries continue to have vaccine access. The economic costs of keeping millions of children out of school surpasses tens of trillions of dollars, not to mention the impact on climate, security and health.

Children cannot return to schools without a global vaccination campaign; vaccinations can be more effectively distributed through schools and education centres; and education is the key to jumpstarting growth and job creation.