Gates Foundation’s report to address stark disparities in COVID-19 impacts

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The Goalkeepers Campaign of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has called on global leaders to address the stark disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic impact on humanity especially in the low and middle income countries.

The Foundation, which launched its fifth annual Goalkeepers Report, on Monday September 13, 2021, featured an updated global dataset illustrating the pandemic’s adverse impact on progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report, co-authored by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, said the disparities caused by COVID-19 remained stark, and those who had been hardest hit by the pandemic would be the slowest to recover.

The Foundation in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, said as a result of the pandemic, an additional 31 million people were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 compared to 2019 and while 90 per cent of advanced economies would regain pre-pandemic per capita income levels by next year, only a third of low- and middle-income economies were expected to do so.

“Fortunately, amidst this devastation, the world stepped up to avert some of the worst-case scenarios. In last year’s Goalkeepers Report, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicted a drop of 14 percentage points in global vaccine coverage – effectively erasing 25 years of progress in 25 weeks,” it noted.

In the report, the statement said the Co-Chairs highlighted the breathtaking innovation that was only possible because of global collaboration, commitment, and investments over decades.

Although they acknowledged that averting the worst-case scenarios was commendable, they said it was not enough.

To ensure a truly equitable recovery from the pandemic, they called for long-term investments in health and economies like the ones that led to the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine to propel recovery efforts and get the world back on track to meet the Global Goals.

“If we can expand upon the best of what we’ve seen these past 18 months, we can finally put the pandemic behind us and once again accelerate progress in addressing fundamental issues like health, hunger, and climate change,” the Co-Chairs noted.

The report highlights the disproportionate economic impact the pandemic had had on women globally, indicating that in high-and low-income countries alike, women had been harder hit than men by the global recession that was triggered by the pandemic.

Madam Melinda French Gates said: “Women face structural barriers in every corner of the world, leaving them more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic.”

By investing in women and addressing the inequities, she said governments could spur a more equitable recovery while strengthening their economies against future crises, adding: “It’s not just the right thing to do but smart policy that will benefit everyone.”

The report also commented on how the ‘so-called miracle’ of COVID-19 vaccines was the result of decades of investment, policies, and partnerships that established the infrastructure, talent, and ecosystems necessary to deploy them quickly.

However, it said the systems that allowed for the unprecedented development and deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine existed primarily in wealthy countries, and as a result, the world had not benefited equally.

On the part of Mr Bill Gates, he said: “The lack of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is a public health tragedy. 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 said more than 80 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries to date, with some securing two to three times the number needed so they could cover boosters; but less than one per cent of doses had been administered in low-income countries.

Mr Mark Suzman, the Chief Executive Officer, Gates Foundation, said the report called for the world to invest in R&D, infrastructure, and innovation in places closer to the people who stood to benefit.

“We must invest in local partners to strengthen the capacity of researchers and manufacturers in lower income countries to create the vaccines and medicines they need. The only way we will solve our greatest health challenges is by drawing on the innovation and talent of people all over the world,” he added.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people to lead healthy and productive lives and the Goalkeepers is the Foundation’s campaign to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

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