By Jimoh Babatunde
The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have reportedly increased poverty by seven percent, set the world back 25 years in vaccine coverage and stopped 20 years of progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).
This report is contained in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s fourth annual Goalkeepers Report launched Monday.
The report provides the most current global dataset for how the pandemic is affecting progress toward the Global Goals. It shows that by nearly every indicator, the world has regressed.
Because of COVID-19, extreme poverty has increased by 7%. Vaccine coverage, a good proxy measure for how health systems are functioning, is dropping to levels last seen in the 1990s, setting the world back about 25 years in 25 weeks.
The report state that economic damage from COVID-19 is reinforcing inequalities.
It noted that: “The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, racial and ethnic minority communities, and people living in extreme poverty.
“Around the world, women are facing an increased burden from rising demands in total unpaid care work and experiencing the majority of job losses.
“In the United States, the percentage of Black and Latinx people who say they cannot pay their rent is twice the percentage of white people.”
Despite the bleak projections, Bill and Melinda Gates describe a path to ending the pandemic and resuming progress toward the Global Goals.
In the report, which they co-author every year, they call on the world to collaborate on the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and treatment; manufacture tests and doses as quickly as possible; and deliver these tools equitably based on need rather than the ability to pay.
There are currently several viable strategies to help achieve an equitable outcome, including the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the most serious collaborative effort to end the pandemic, which brings together proven organisations like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us some of the best of humanity: path-breaking innovation, heroic acts by frontline workers, and ordinary people doing the best they can for their families, neighbours and communities,” Bill and Melinda Gates write.
“This is a shared global crisis that demands a shared global response. No single country will be able to meet this challenge alone.
“Any attempts by one country to protect itself while neglecting others will only prolong the hardships caused by the pandemic.
“Developing and manufacturing vaccines will not end the pandemic quickly unless they are delivered equitably.”