Ideally, this article about the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing injustices surrounding its end would not need to be written.
We are all experiencing the fatigue of the coronavirus pandemic, its socioeconomic impacts, and the systemic barriers that surround access to vaccines and ensure financial fairness. However, we must not let exhaustion stop us from taking action to tackle these systemic barriers and ensure that every person on the planet has a fighting chance against COVID-19.
We cannot afford to be tired of the pandemic when so many still face it as an ongoing threat. Millions of people still do not have equitable access to vaccines and nearly 100 million people have been pushed into poverty as a result of the pandemic’s blow to the global economy.
Giving up on this fight means giving up global public health security as a whole. And yes, it also means giving up the security of your individual health, both now and in the face of future health threats.
As part of Global Citizen’s 2022 campaign, End extreme poverty NOW — Our future cannot wait, we ask that the systemic barriers that continue to keep people in poverty be broken down. These include ending the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on creating sustainable access to health care, and achieving financial equity so that the poorest countries can recover from the pandemic and meet the basic needs of their populations.
We also call on world leaders to empower girls, which you can read more about here, and to take immediate action on the climate crisis, which we have explained in detail here.
We’ve broken down what systemic barriers are, how they exacerbate poverty, and what we aim to do to dismantle them in our article here.
For now, however, we wanted to paint a picture of the critical importance of prioritizing this mission by highlighting a few key facts that show why we need to dismantle these barriers.
1. 97 million people have been pushed into poverty by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have hit economies hard, triggering the worst economic crisis since the 1930s and leading to job losses, business closures and income disruption. As a result, around 97 million more people have been pushed into poverty. This figure does not take into account people around the world who were already impoverished and pushed deeper into poverty.
2. Billionaires got 54% richer during the pandemic.
The global financial inequality gap has seen a shocking increase between 2020 and 2021, with the poor pushed further into poverty and the rich continuing to climb the wealth ladder.
Additionally, the 10 richest men in the world have seen their wealth double during the pandemic. This has been the cause of calls for fair taxation for the world’s wealthiest, an agenda item due to be discussed at this year’s G20 summit in November.
3. Pharmaceutical companies making COVID-19 vaccines make a profit of $65,000 every minute.
The global need for a vaccine has seen pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna collectively earn $1,000 per second, according to Peoples Vaccine Alliance figures released in November 2021.
Meanwhile, a large majority of the world’s poor have yet to receive a single dose of the vaccine. Proponents are calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their know-how and technology with developing countries, which would increase the global supply of vaccines and reduce prices, so that they too can fight the pandemic fairly.
4. 118 countries are not on track to meet the WHO COVID-19 vaccination target.
In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) set a global target for countries to administer the primary vaccination to 70% of their population by mid-2022. A large number of countries are far behind this target, with African countries being the furthest behind. In fact, at present, no country in Africa is on track to achieve this goal.
5. 60% of low-income countries are at high risk of debt distress or are already in debt distress.
The pandemic has had a huge negative effect on countries’ economies and low-income countries are bearing the worst of its impacts, having had to keep their countries afloat through loans.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 60% of low-income countries are facing over-indebtedness, and servicing their debt is expensive. They are estimated to be paying more to service their debts today than at any time in the past two decades.
6. A handful of rich countries will receive 68% of the IMF’s financial lifeline, while the poorest 44 countries will receive only 7%.
Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) are a financial reserve asset issued by the IMF that can be traded between countries, or with the IMF, serving as additional emergency financing. Last year, the IMF issued a historic $650 billion in SDRs for pandemic recovery.
Right now, the way this reserve asset will be distributed means that rich countries (which don’t need it as much) will get the majority of these SDRs, around $442.8 billion; while 44 of the world’s poorest countries will receive the least, around $44.5 billion.
7. Developing countries will need $3.5 trillion to respond to COVID-19 and achieve the UN Global Goals by 2030.
The United Nations’ global goals have been pushed even further off course in the wake of the pandemic, and developing countries will need a significant boost to be able to meet these goals on time. Even before the pandemic, there was an estimated funding gap of $2.5 trillion to meet these goals, and now, due to the pandemic, that number has risen to around $3.5 trillion.
8. Less than 20 countries in the world have full vaccine manufacturing capacity.
This has had an impact on the bottleneck effect that vaccine nationalism has had on the global vaccine supply. As soon as the vaccines became available, rich countries overbought vaccine stocks – also investing in doses yet to be manufactured – while middle-income and low-income countries had to wait for orders from rich countries to be placed before even make their own vaccine. orders. Indeed, fewer than 20 countries worldwide have access to the technology, funding and capacity to manufacture doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
9. Only 13% of low-income populations have been vaccinated — compared to 75% of high-income populations.
In addition, discussions about administering a second booster shot in rich countries have already begun, although a large number of people in low-income countries have yet to receive a single dose, including more one billion people in Africa alone.
10. Rich countries have fallen far short of their promises to share their vaccines.
While wealthy countries that were hoarding the vaccines have pledged to share some with developing countries, many of those doses have yet to be seen in developing countries. Among the G7 countries, the United States has pledged and donated the most vaccine doses, but is still far from meeting its vaccine donation goal – having shipped 24% of its pledged doses. Other G7 countries also lag far behind in delivering on their pledges – having shipped between 10% (UK) and 28% (Japan) of their promised doses.
11. Africa currently produces only 1% of its own vaccines.
With a population of 1.3 billion and being the second largest continent in the world, it would make sense for Africa to have the full capacity to manufacture its own vaccines from scratch. But the continent still imports 99% of its vaccines, and while work to increase immunization capacity on the continent is ongoing, these efforts will take a long time without Big Pharma expanding access to their intellectual property. and does share technology to help establish vaccines. manufacturing plants on the mainland.
You can join the End Extreme Poverty NOW — Our Future Can’t Wait campaign by registering as a global citizen (either here or by download the Global Citizen app) and join us in breaking down systemic barriers NOW.