The knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic have halted and reversed global health progress, setting it back 25 years and exposing millions to the risk of lethal disease and poverty, a outline by the Invoice & Melinda Gates Foundation warned on Tuesday.
As a result of Covid-19, extreme poverty has increased by 7%, and routine vaccine coverage – a good proxy measure for how health systems are functioning – is dropping to levels final seen in the 1990s, the outline said.
“It’s a enormous setback,” Invoice Gates, co-chair of the Foundation and a leading philanthropic funder of global health and development, told a media briefing on the outline’s findings.
The Foundation’s Goalkeepers outline, which tracks progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of reducing poverty and making improvements to health, found that previously year, by almost each and every indicator, the world has regressed.
Alongside dropping rates of routine immunisation, which the outline described as “setting the world back approximately 25 years in 25 weeks”, rising levels of poverty and economic damage from the pandemic are reinforcing inequalities, it said.
It found that the pandemic has had a disproportionate affect on women, racial and ethnic minority communities and people living in extreme poverty.
“After 20 consecutive years of declines in extreme poverty, we’ve now seen a reversal,” said Mark Suzman, chief executive of the Gates Foundation, in an interview with Reuters. “We’ve had almost 40 million people thrown back into extreme poverty. That’s polite over a million a week since the virus hit.”
The outline cited International Monetary Fund projections that, despite the $18 trillion dollars already spent on trying to stimulate economies around the globe, the global economy will lose $12 trillion or more by the end of 2021 – the biggest global GDP loss since the end of World War Two.
While the scene is “bleak” at the moment, Gates said he was once self-assured the world would emerge from the pandemic and renew progress towards the goals on making improvements to global health.
“If is takes us two years, or even three, we do imagine that we’ll overcome this and get back heading in the right direction,” he said.