The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been found to have pushed more than thirty million people globally into extreme poverty, according to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s fifth annual Goalkeepers Report.
The eye-opening sixty-three-page report also revealed that the year-and-half-long pandemic led to major declines in routine childhood vaccination rates, increased health-care inequities, and further widened the education gap between poor and rich countries. It added that 90 percent of advanced economies will regain pre-pandemic per capita income levels by 2022, but only one-third of low- and middle-income economies are expected to do likewise.
“(The past year) has reinforced our belief that progress is possible but not inevitable,” Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, co-chairs of the foundation, wrote.
“If we can expand upon the best of what we’ve seen these past eighteen months, we can finally put the pandemic behind us and once again accelerate progress in addressing fundamental issues like health, hunger, and climate change,” they added.
Challenges for Women
The disproportionate economic impact on women across the world was also highlighted.
“Women face structural barriers in every corner of the world, leaving them more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic,” Melinda French Gates noted.
“By investing in women now and addressing these inequities, governments can spur a more equitable recovery while strengthening their economies against future crises. It’s not just the right thing to do—but smart policy that will benefit everyone,” she continued.
Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman shared similar sentiments on a conference call with reporters: “Of the jobs that have been lost (during the pandemic), thirteen million more jobs globally have been lost to women than men. Women also bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities across rich and poor world alike.”
The report also illustrated how today’s available coronavirus vaccines are currently deployed in mostly wealthy countries.
“The lack of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is a public health tragedy,” Bill Gates contends.
“We face the very real risk that in the future, wealthy countries and communities will begin treating COVID-19 as yet another disease of poverty. We can’t put the pandemic behind us until everyone, regardless of where they live, has access to vaccines,” he added.
According to the World Health Organization, about 5.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, but roughly 80 percent of them have gone to upper-middle or high-income nations.
“Less than 2 percent of adults are fully vaccinated in most low-income countries compared to almost 50 percent in high income countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently wrote. “This crisis of vaccine inequity is driving a dangerous divergence in COVID-19 survival rates and in the global economy.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.