The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has pushed an additional 31 million people worldwide into dire poverty and undermined global progress in eradicating poverty by four years, according to the fifth annual goalkeeper report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released on Monday.
The report, which examines global advances in vaccine access, poverty reduction, and other health issues, also found that the pandemic resulted in a significant decline in routine childhood vaccination rates, widened the education gap between rich and poor countries, and health inequalities increased.
The 63-page report calls on world leaders to make the long-term investments necessary to develop and manufacture vaccines and improve public health infrastructure, especially in low-income countries where many people live some of the could not avoid the worst effects of the pandemic.
Covid has “significantly” reversed a number of global health efforts, said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, in a background call to reporters prior to the report’s release.
“Instead of lifting tens of millions of people out of extreme poverty,” he said 31 million more people were in extreme poverty. “We’re seeing stagnation in other indicators, from stunted growth and nutrition to some of the challenges in education.”
Covid, first discovered in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, brought global economic activity to a virtual standstill and drove record numbers of people into unemployment as governments took public health measures to slow the spread of the virus.
World health officials and medical experts fear the economic impact could worsen. Vaccination rates remain low in many parts of the world and new varieties are emerging, leading to more outbreaks and obliging nations to reintroduce public health measures.
Around 5.5 billion Covid vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. However, according to the World Health Organization, 80% of them have gone to high or middle income countries.
The proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty, which is defined as living on $ 1.90 a day, has fallen from 37% to 9% over the past two decades. However, the decline in poverty has stalled and is likely to stay at current levels for years to come as the virus continues to circulate, according to the report.
Most of this will be seen in low-income countries where less than 1% of Covid vaccine doses have been given, Suzman said.
“With the majority of rich countries largely vaccinated, most will see a rebound in pre-crisis income per capita this year,” he said. “But next year two-thirds of developing countries will still be below their 2019 per capita ratio … and some countries will have many years to go before they return to 2019 levels.”
The vaccine injustices observed around the world are a “deep moral outrage,” the report said, and increase the risk that high-income countries and communities will treat Covid as another “epidemic of poverty” or “not our problem.”
The economic fallout from the pandemic will also slow progress towards gender equality – in both poor and affluent countries – as women are disproportionately affected by the crisis, according to Suzman.
“About the lost jobs [during the pandemic], 13 million more jobs are lost to women than to men worldwide, “he said in the appeal.” Women also have the main responsibility for caring for the rich and poor. “
Economic consequences aside, the pandemic will likely result in more children falling ill or dying from diseases that were thought to be largely eradicated, Suzman added.
The report also states that global rates for routine vaccinations in children like malaria fell 7% last year to levels not seen since 2005, Health Metrics and Evaluation had predicted.
Suzman attributed the less-than-expected decline to several countries taking action shortly after the World Health Organization and other groups sounded the alarm last year.
In April 2020, the WHO warned that children around the world would die as the pandemic forced some countries to temporarily suspend vaccinations against other deadly diseases.
It was “pretty impressive,” Suzman told reporters, referring to the 7% drop. “With something like vaccinations, it’s something that you can catch up, that you miss a vaccination and want to try to catch the child later.”