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Bringing the Faith Community Together for Global Vaccine Equity

October 13, 2021

UNICEF USA and dedicated faith partners have launched an Interfaith Movement to End the Pandemic, bringing together faith communities and leaders across denominations to come to the aid of our most vulnerable communities. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has devastated nations, institutions and communities around the world. Global experts, grassroots organizations and faith leaders have expressed deep alarm on the critical backsliding of development, education, human rights and health standards for those most vulnerable around the world. In 2020, 1.6 billion children were out of school, 80 million children missed out on lifesaving routine vaccinations, and an additional 6.7 million children are now at risk for death from severe malnutrition. These outcomes cannot be ignored as our communities respond to and recover from COVID-19. The focus now is not a return to normal, but rather the opportunity to rebuild and reimagine a better world.

Ending the pandemic — why UNICEF?

UNICEF has been entrusted by the global vaccine alliance (GAVI) as the lead procurement and distribution partner for the COVAX alliance, as part of the largest and fastest immunization campaign in history. UNICEF is using its power as the world’s largest vaccine purchaser to negotiate prices on other countries’ behalf to keep vaccines affordable and is also preparing countries for vaccination campaigns by pre-positioning and delivering PPE supplies and preparing the cold chain. In concert with governments and community groups and leaders including religious leaders, UNICEF is working to build vaccine confidence through social-listening and communications campaigns in each country’s language and tailored to the local community context.

In order to restart the world for children, we know the first steps on the path to rebuilding from the COVID-19 pandemic are equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses. But it will also take providing equitable access to rapid diagnostics and treatments, and the strengthening of health systems around the world. That’s why UNICEF is also delivering 500 million COVID tests and 245 million COVID treatments so countries can easily detect and treat the coronavirus — and slow its spread while waiting for the full vaccine rollout.

For more than 75 years, UNICEF has built an unprecedented global health support system. Among its many programs, UNICEF helps immunize more than 45% of the world’s children every year — in some of the most remote places on Earth. UNICEF was chosen to lead the global COVID-19 vaccine procurement and delivery because UNICEF is the only organization with the infrastructure, experience and expertise already in place to make it happen quickly.

The interfaith movement for equitable vaccine distribution

UNICEF has long recognized the vital role that people of faith, through their religious and spiritual beliefs, play in its mission to protect children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has seen communities of faith and interfaith efforts to support those most vulnerable by offering food, shelter and access to basic services around the world.

In recognition of the incredible work of these communities, UNICEF USA and dedicated faith partners have launched an interfaith movement for vaccine equity around the world. This campaign to end the pandemic aims to bring faith communities and leaders together across denominations to come to the aid of our most vulnerable communities. 

Why interfaith?

128 years ago, the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions marked the first official gathering of globally diverse peoples of faith and spirituality in modern history, serving as the birthplace of a vibrant and engaged interfaith movement. For more than a century, people of faith and conscience engaged in the global interfaith movement have remained deeply committed to a core mission of peace, justice and sustainability ,all while promoting interreligious dialogue and understanding. A landmark of this movement has been global interfaith convenings organized by the Parliament of the World’s Religions, where luminaries like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, U.N. Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall, Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu and countless other changemakers have gathered to connect with grassroots organizers from around the world.

At their most recent Convening, hosted in Toronto, UNICEF USA and UNICEF Canada joined the Parliament to connect with thousands of interfaith organizers who share a common mission for peace, justice and sustainable development for those most vulnerable in society, children and the next generation. As UNICEF works to ensure that up to 1.4 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses are distributed equitably by the end of 2021 via COVAX, the global interfaith movement is convening virtually for the 2021 Parliament of the World’s Religions October 16-18.

The 2021 Parliament is organized with a deep conviction that connecting people of faith and spirituality committed to peace, justice and sustainability cannot wait as organizers, communities and nations work to build back better after the pandemic. Hosted online for the first time in its history, following COVID-19 safety protocols, the 2021 Parliament offers participants the opportunity to connect remotely on the theme of “Opening Our Hearts to the World: Compassion in Action.” The theme is centered on a notion of grief for what has been lost, inspiration in what has been accomplished despite all the loss, and the revitalizing need for action entrenched in compassion for the future.

UNICEF USA is proud to partner with the Parliament as a sponsor for the 2021 Parliament of the World’s Religions, where it will connect and engage thousands of attendees and faith leaders with the mission to end the pandemic. Faith leaders and organizations play a critical role in mobilizing communities to act for justice and create awareness about important issues facing the world. This is why we are inviting the interfaith community to join us in the fight against COVID-19 and in the dismantling of health inequity around the world. We need as many concerned friends and neighbors as possible to join us in this effort to turn the tide against COVID-19. The historic initiative to vaccinate the world needs an all hands-on deck approach.

A call to action

Faith communities and leaders across the United States and around the world are coming together to end the global pandemic and to come to the aid of our most vulnerable communities. UNICEF USA’s Interfaith Movement to End the Pandemic has three aims: fundraise, promote awareness of the crisis and engage in advocacy efforts.

At the 2021 Parliament, UNICEF USA joins the world’s premier interfaith convening of civic, spiritual and grassroots changemakers in this interfaith mission.

Explore ways to get engaged

Register for the 2021 Parliament Connect with the UNICEF USA team in the Expo, hear from more than 100 global luminaries, and access over 500 programs including:

  • Humanity and Mother Earth: Recovering Better Through a Compassionate Lens
  • Models of Innovative and Effective Interfaith Programming for High School Students and Young Adults
  • Developing and Implementing Youth Philanthropy
  • Students Serving Communities During COVID and Beyond
  • Spirituality and Singularity, a Post-Pandemic MultiFaith Symposium: Repair, Reconstruction and Revolution
  • Now We Must Stand for the Children: Indigenous Wisdom for the Survival of the Species

Fundraise Raise crucial funds needed to get the COVID-19 vaccine into people’s arms and host events at a grassroots level to deepen our interfaith movement.

Advocate Visit UNICEF USA’s Action Center to support UNICEF’s effort to help equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Meet with your elected officials to speak up about UNICEF’s leadership and the resources needed to end the pandemic and safeguard the futures of the world’s most vulnerable children.

Raise Awareness Learn more about UNICEF’s efforts in combating COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. Play a leading role in your community of faith to advocate for COVID-19 vaccinations and health protocols for avoiding infections.

Learn more about the Interfaith Movement to End the Pandemic here.

Top photo: In Jordan, refugees are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination along with Jordanians and those of other nationalities. Jordan received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines via the COVAX Facility, with UNICEF leading on procurement and delivery, in March 2021. © UNICEF/UN0429622/Saman