25 years wiped out in 25 weeks: Pandemic sets the world back decades

In only half a year, the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out decades of global development in everything from health to the economy.

Progress has not only stopped, but has regressed in areas like getting people out of poverty and improving conditions for women and children around the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation finds in its 2020 Goalkeepers report published Monday.

Vaccination coverage, seen as a good indicator for how health systems are functioning, is dropping to levels last seen in the 1990s, it says.

“In other words, weve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks,” the report says. “What the world does in the next months matters a great deal.”

Global action to stop the pandemic would prevent illness and deaths caused by COVID-19, but theres more at stake: The crisis sets back strides made in global poverty, HIV transmission, malnutrition, gender equality, education and many more areas. Even if the world manages to get the coronavirus under control soon, it could take years to claw back lost progress.

“Were at the real cusp moment at how you can tackle this and how long-term the effects are,” Mark Suzman, the CEO of the Gates Foundation, told POLITICO.

If the world can get a coronavirus vaccine successfully distributed in the next 18 months or so, things may return to the way they were before the pandemic in one or two years, he said. But in some developing countries, reversing the economic downturn may take longer because they dont have the ability to invest as much money in their economies as rich countries, Suzman said.

Every year it was released since 2017, the Goalkeepers report celebrated progress in fighting poverty and disease in the developing world, Suzman said.

But this year its striving to show just how bad things are.

After 20 years of continuous progress, almost 37 million people have this year become extremely poor, living on less than $1.90 a day, according to the report. “Falling below the poverty line is a euphemism, though; what it means is having to scratch and claw every single moment just to keep your family alive,” it says.

These newly impoverished people are likely to be more women who work mostly in informal jobs in low- and middle-income countries.

And the coronaviruss bad news for women doesnt stop there.

“Indirectly, COVID will cause more women than men to suffer and die, in large part because the pandemic has disrupted health care before, during, and immediately after childbirth,” the report says. Newborns are at risk too, as more infants are likely to die when health systems falter — as is happening now around the world.

Children are also at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis since, for the first time in almost 30 years, the first four months of 2020 showed a substantial drop in the number of those completing the three doses of the DTP vaccine, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

And outbreaks harm not only childrens health, but also their education.

“Data from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa suggests that, when schools open again, girls are less likely to return, thereby closing off opportunities for themselves and for their future children,” the Goalkeepers report says.

The early signs of that are present in Malawi, for example.

Teenage girls living with HIV who have been stuck at home as schools were closed because of the pandemic are getting pregnant, Grace Ngulube, a 25-year old HIV activist based in Blantyre, Malawis second largest city, told POLITICO. As schools reopen, they will be busy taking care of their babies at home, she said.

Ngulube, who works with the countrys association for young people living with HIV and who was born with the disease, said some are afraid to go to youth clinics to get treatments and mental health support like they would have before the pandemic. Those who can make it need to wear a face mask, and that can be an expensive item to procure for some young people who have lost their jobs, she said.

“A lot of young people are really struggling, and some of them, they have contracted themselves into prostitution or maybe transactional sex,” she said. That could lead to new HIV infections.

In 2018, almost 1 in 10 people between 15 and 49 years old lived with HIV in the country, according to UNAIDS. Overall, 1 million out of the 18 million people in Malawi had HIV in 2018.

Recent modeling studies show that deaths from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria could as much as double in the next year as a result ofRead More – Source

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