Impact of COVID-19 on global poverty reduction

By: Brier Published: 29/05/2020

May 25, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed to us the frailty of even the strongest health systems worldwide and its impact will reverberate far beyond the health sector. One thing is clear: the poorest and most vulnerable are going to be hardest hit by the pandemic. Oxfam has warned that the pandemic could push half a billion people into poverty.[1] Children will be particularly vulnerable and World Vision has warned that the secondary impacts of the disease (including malaria, lack of immunizations and increased malnutrition) could put as many as 30 million children’s lives at risk.[2]

Canada has been a leader in global poverty reduction with a strong focus on global health. It is imperative that we don’t slow down our efforts now. Any successful COVID-19 response will have to be global in nature and Canada is well equipped to help.

Here is how COVID-19 impacts the issues that Results Canada works on:

tuberculosis (TB)

  • Due to the respiratory nature of both diseases, experts expect TB patients and survivors with lung damage to be at an increased risk of serious illness and complications if they contract COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 is severely impacting the ability for TB patients to be treated.
  • Resources being diverted to the COVID-19 response are disrupting drug and treatment regimens; active case detection has also been halted, preventing new diagnosis of TB and increasing the risk of a resurgence of disease. A modelling study from the Stop TB Partnership shows an additional 6.3 million people will develop TB and 1.4 million will die by 2025 due to impact of #COVID19.
  • Canada should support a global COVID-19 response that takes into account the needs of people with communicable diseases like TB.

immunizations

  • COVID-19 measures have suspended life-saving immunization campaigns across the globe, with experts predicting increases in cases of polio, measles, HPV, yellow fever, cholera and meningitis in the current months, affecting children the most.
  • We need to ensure that programs like those supported by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance get the support they need to ramp up immunizations efforts as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • It is essential to support the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and Canada is helping with its recent pledge of $40 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
  • It is equally important to ensure that the vaccine gets to those who need it most through continued support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)

  • One of the best ways to prevent COVID-19 and the spread of other infectious diseases is by handwashing, however one in six healthcare facilities worldwide have no handwashing facilities, not to mention that two out of five people lack them at home.
  • With limited access to clean water for hand washing, experts predict that COVID-19 will spread more rapidly, creating a higher risk of illness with a larger transmission rate.
  • Canadian organizations like WaterAid are at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, putting handwashing facilities in places that need them and supporting awareness raising campaigns to encourage good hygiene practices.

nutrition

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is severely burdening the health, food, and economic systems of the world’s most developed countries. The impact on already vulnerable lower and middle income countries will be even more pronounced due to the pandemic, threatening global spikes in food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Globally, nearly half of all under-5 child deaths are due to undernutrition. Undernutrition puts children at greater risk of delays in recovery and dying from infectious diseases. It is estimated that more than 5 million additional children could suffer from undernutrition, an increase of almost 40% from current numbers.
  • The UN World Food Programme has also warned that COVID-19 could exacerbate world hunger and food insecurity, potentially leading to a famine in low-income countries.
  • A Canadian global response to COVID-19 must take into account the secondary impacts of the pandemic, including nutrition to ensure that children receive the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

education

  • COVID-19 has forced school closures, with over 1.5 billion students across the globe staying home and facing disruptions not only in their learning, but also in programs offered through school including access to food and vaccinations.
  • Canada is a strong supporter of education globally and it is crucial that we prioritize ways to keep children learning by supporting a variety of high to low and no-tech solutions for communities, refugees and those in IDP camps including the transition to radio and internet learning.
  • Young children are particularly at risk when not in school, we must continue to monitor, address, and respond to gender-based violence, child labour and other forms of exploitation
  • We must support teachers during this time through professional development and by providing resources and platforms to help make at-home learning most effective for students and to ensure the continuity of education

gender equality

  • COVID-19 predominately affects women and girls because they are often the primary caregivers in the home and form the majority of frontline healthcare workers, putting them at increased risk for infection and transmission.
  • An increase of domestic abuse cases has been recorded since the outbreak of COVID-19 both at home and abroad - it is crucial that Canada factor this into our pandemic responses.
  • Canada, must consider the gender lens in all aspects of our COVID-19 response to ensure that women and girls are protected and have access to essential support services and should use its leadership to encourage other countries to do the same

[1] Oxfam April 2020 press release

[2] World Vision COVID-19 Aftershocks April 2020

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