Three years on from the beginning of COVID’s impact on our families, our lives, and our communities, we gathered to share our stories of what advocates from across the world are doing to hold their governments to account.
In the U.S., Charonda shared her powerful story of how the loss of her father led to her campaigning to make sure that other families didn’t suffer as she did. The culture wars around mask-wearing and the politicization of COVID-19 meant the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 was harder than ever. Despite the challenges, Charonda has worked as an individual and now with COVID Survivors for Change to directly engage with communities across the U.S. to deliver 4,000 hours of mental health support to bereaved families and to keep decision-makers focused on the now 1.1 million Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
“The far reaching impact of COVID-19 calls for sustained recovery efforts that prioritize the most impacted and vulnerable, including COVID orphans, long haulers, and bereaved families.”
– Charonda Johnson, COVID Survivors for Change
Helena, in Spain, gathered scientists and experts to create a wall of sound that couldn’t be ignored, leading to the agreement of the government to hold an inquiry into all aspects of the COVID crisis. Helena spoke about the lack of channels for experts, scientists, and citizens to engage with the government to make sure proper evaluation took place — and ensure acting on lessons learned was a priority for the future. Connecting with younger politicians from across different parties led to an inspiring moment of behind-the-scenes agreement and focus that gives Helena some hope that the next generation of politicians in Spain — and beyond — might find ways to work across party lines for the public good — and to protect public health.
In Kenya, Titus told us how Transparency International worked tirelessly during the COVID pandemic to champion transparency and accountability in the government’s COVID response measures. This included tracking public resources and aid that came in to fight COVID-19, working for transparency in vaccine deliveries, and guarding against corruption. Problems in the procurement of large quantities of vaccines, tests and treatments, and PPE have surfaced in many countries — and in Kenya, this resulted in the strengthening of emergency procurement regulations and review of procurement practices by medical supply agencies. Through collaborative efforts with other civil society actors, journalists, and young creatives to develop platforms for tracking resources, citizens became better informed and were able to demand accountability from the government.
In the U.K., Clara of COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice shared how this organization, founded by two people who found each other on Facebook, both grieving the loss of loved ones to COVID, started what has become an advocacy force holding the British government to account on COVID-19. As recently as last week, the group managed to ensure an expert on structural racism will be part of the U.K. COVID-19 Inquiry so that the unequal nature of the impact of COVID will also be in focus.
These inspiring advocates, with partners, families, and community members, have moved mountains in their quest for justice and their desire to make sure that in the future others don’t suffer in the same way because we haven’t learned the lessons of the COVID crisis. At Pandemic Action Network, we commit to working with each one of these inspiring advocates to make sure that decision-makers hear these COVID stories, remember the human cost of this pandemic, and take appropriate action to ensure all our communities are better prepared for future pandemic threats. Pandemic Action Network was formed to make sure we don’t fall into the cycle of panic and neglect and instead take the energy, lived experience, and stories of these campaigners to make sure leaders everywhere commit to action for one outcome: never again.
If you know of a group advocating for COVID survivors or families anywhere in the world, or if you represent an organization (of any kind) working to ensure a pandemic-proof future, and would like to join Pandemic Action Network, please get in touch!