Arm in Arm is a campaign led by the academics behind the Oxford Vaccine and supported by the University of East Anglia and the University of Essex. It invites us to celebrate our own vaccination by donating to the World Health Organisation's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. As a guide, the cost of the Pfizer vaccine that most people here have had so far is about £15 a jag. You can find out all you need to know about the campaign at arminarm.net
Showing solidarity on this issue at a personal level is important but fundamentally this is a global crisis demanding the rapid response of the whole international community. This is no time for the platitude 'we are all in this together'. The better-off countries are able to roll out mass vaccination programmes, while the rest are at risk of being left behind. This pandemic should be reinforcing our understanding of the gross inequalities in the world.
A survey carried out recently through the BBC World Service found clear evidence that 'the coronavirus pandemic has hit poorer countries harder than the rest of the world, sowing inequality globally'. A drop in income was reported by 69% of respondents in poorer countries, in comparison to 45% in richer ones. Outcomes also differed along race and gender lines, with women worse off than men, and black people reporting higher levels of COVID-19 infection than white people in the US. Progress on getting girls into education is in danger of being rolled back as children are denied access to schooling. It is feared that many girls will never return to the education system after the pandemic comes under control.
This is why the decision by the UK Government to renege on its commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid could not have come at a worse time for the world's poorest countries and for international cooperation generally. The World Bank estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will push around 100 million more people into extreme poverty this year alone, rolling back years of progress that UK aid has helped contribute to. Progress is nearly always followed by backlash and we find how fragile all our gains turn out to be.
What a slap in the face this decision of the government is to all those who fought to grow the aid budget over the decades – Judith Hart, Clare Short, Gordon Brown, Douglas Alexander. It couldn't be a worse time to elevate parochialism over progress. When are people going to realise that governments and politicians are not all the same? It really matters who we elect and put in charge and what policies and priorities they pursue. In the US they have learned this lesson the hard way. Perhaps we will be next.
I was puzzled when I read in my local newspaper, The Galloway News
, that it was planned to teach the Gaelic language to schoolchildren. I am in my late 80s and have always regretted not learning to 'speak' in sign language fluently. It is such a civilised, considerate to others form of communication. In the present State of Siege we are coping with, this would be a major asset, with a number of knock-on advantages. Think of the reduced noise, apart from the real pleasure of having a practical 'degree' in watching and listening. When the world is bug free, we will still have an enviable gift to make our lives more entertaining.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org