As more and more people are getting their COVID-19 vaccine in the High Country, it seems like this challenging time is almost over. Yet, from a global perspective, it should not be forgotten that the virus will likely stay with us for the foreseeable future. The current global vaccine distribution is highly unequal, as Western countries, including the United States, have bought up most vaccines available thus far.

Meanwhile, some African countries are estimated to have access to adequate vaccines only by 2023. As long as COVID-19 will be allowed to roam free in other parts of the world, new variations, more deadly or infectious, can emerge and travel to the United States. Moreover, the secondary socioeconomic effects of COVID-19 are felt the hardest in the most vulnerable regions of the world, setting back decades of progress in fighting poverty. In fact, since 2020, the number of people in extreme poverty has doubled to 265 million globally.

This spring, students at Appalachian State University are volunteering with The Borgen Project, a nonprofit, national advocacy campaign that urges Congress to support global poverty relief through American foreign policy legislation.

On behalf of the world’s poor, the volunteers have started a conversation with North Carolina’s Congressional leaders, senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, and Rep. Virginia Foxx, addressing the importance of global poverty relief, especially during the pandemic. Some bills of interest have been the International Affairs Budget, the Global Health Security Act and the recently passed American Rescue Act, which included $11 billion in foreign assistance funding. The Borgen Project thanks them for their willingness to engage with this cause.

Anyone can get involved with The Borgen Project, but constituents of North Carolina’s representatives in Washington, D.C., can also make a difference on their own, by emailing, calling or writing letters to their senators and representative. There is strength in numbers, and it has been shown even a handful of people reaching out to their leaders can have a meaningful impact. The pandemic serves as an opportunity for the United States to continue American leadership at a time that it is much needed.

Matthijs Koster


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