When it comes to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the UK government is stressing the importance of ensuring that as many delegates as possible are vaccinated against COVID-19. This is no mean feat considering they expect an influx of thousands of attendees from all over the world.
In an effort to ensure attendance and include as many representatives as possible, the UK government with support from the UN has made doses available for delegates who would otherwise not have had the chance to be vaccinated.
Facing a second dose deadline of mid-October ahead of the conference the first doses of the vaccines had to be in arms by mid-September, a quick turnaround for the Palladium logistics team tasked with the shipment, cold-chain logistics, and inoculation of doses from the UK to Benin and Uganda.
Thanks to the combined efforts of Palladium, the UK government, and the government of Uganda, the logistics for the doses going to Uganda were straight-forward. While according to Eamon Doyle, Palladium’s Program Manager, Benin was a different story, “It went down to the wire,” he concedes.
The team faced difficulties due to delays while in transit in Paris, “Under normal circumstances, this would be annoying but not the end of the world, but these thermal boxes had a 92-hour limit for keeping the doses at the right temperature, so it was critical that they made it to our clinic before the time limit was up,” Doyle explains.
Thanks to a quick-moving Bolloré customs and logistics team on the ground, cross UK-government collaboration and the support of Beninois officials, the doses arrived at our clinic in Cotonou within an hour and 39 minutes of landing in Benin. Once they received certification from the Public Health England and the vaccine manufacturer, it was smooth sailing, and the medical team led by our partner AMI Expeditionary Healthcare started vaccinating delegates in time ahead of their trip to Glasgow.
Importance of Safe Representation
In a year where the pandemic proved the power of virtual gatherings, many may question why it’s necessary to bring people together in person for COP26. But as Doyle notes, it’s critical to have representation from all countries at the summit, “Many of those we were vaccinating are from NGOs and organisations doing work on the ground and it’s really important that these grass-roots representatives have the opportunity to go to the conference, and to do it safely.”
The sentiment was echoed by those at the clinic receiving their first dose. “There is a level of interaction limited by virtual engagements,” says Felly Tumusiime, a COP26 delegate in Uganda. “One-on-one interactions allow for diversity and the opportunity to meet to share experiences. COP26 will be a good opportunity for me to share and learn from other countries what their progress is on tracking greenhouse gasses because it is important now that we have new baselines for new targets,” she adds.
For many, COP26 represents one of the last chances for the world to get runaway climate change under control. Despite the fact that the UN has been bringing together nearly every country on earth for annual climate summits for almost thirty years, addressing climate change and coming to a global agreement has never been more paramount.
And that means bringing together more than just the 190 world leaders in attendance this year. It includes the aid and development workers, those working in the private sector, and those on the ground dedicating their lives and careers to solving for the climate crisis.
According to a COP26 delegate Imelda Kanjomba, an Agriculturalist in Uganda, it’s important for her to participate as a woman representing her country, “Virtual meetings have time limits, but in-person meetings allow for more concentration. Sometimes we attend virtual meetings in our homes with all the distractions that come with that but in person means you are present and able to make worthwhile contributions.”
“They needed more women on negotiating teams, I will be very happy to be there as a lady in agriculture. I will be negotiating for the country. Eighty percent of women are in agriculture, and they are the ones most affected by climate change directly,” she noted.
Those in Benin and Uganda receiving their doses with UK support may only make up a small number of those attending COP26, but their attendance is important. They represent a growing group of people affected by and concerned with tackling the global climate crisis whose voices need to be heard and are necessary additions to the larger conversations taking place in November.
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