Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Says Covid-19 has Worsened Inequalities between Poor and Rich Nations

New data has revealed that by the end of the year 2020, 13 to 50 million Africans are expected to fall below the poverty line due to the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has also stalled 20 years of progress toward the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).


According to a Gates Foundation's Annual Goalkeepers Report released Tuesday, September 15, economic damage has reinforced inequities in Africa and derailed achievement of the SDGs. This is the continent's first recession in 25 years, the report notes. There are now intensified calls for a global response to end the pandemic.


Co-authors of the  report Bill and Melinda Gates said: “The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us some of the best of humanity: pathbreaking innovation, heroic acts by frontline workers, and ordinary people doing the best they can for their families, neighbours, and communities…This is a shared global crisis that demands a shared global response.”


The Gates have called on the world to collaborate on the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and treatment; and on the manufacture of tests and doses as quickly as possible; and deliver these tools equitably based on need, rather than the ability to pay. There are currently several viable paths to help achieve an equitable outcome, including the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the most serious collaborative effort to end the pandemic, which brings together proven organizations like Gavi and the Global Fund.  


While Africa has made progress in poverty reduction with a 28% decrease in the number of people living in extreme poverty since 1990, the advent of the Novel Coronavirus could see 13 million Africans  falling below the poverty line  and at the worst scenario 50 million by the end of 2020.


“We could see double the number of malaria deaths this year compared to 2018, and 80 million children under the age of one worldwide may be at risk from preventable diseases," the Gates said.


The economic malaise caused by Covid-19 has also reinforced inequalities among women and other vulnerable groups suffering disproportionally. People in low-income countries struggling with food and school closures are unfairly disadvantaging rural children, the report indicates, noting that the challenge requires collective action and any attempts by one country to protect itself while neglecting others will only prolong the hardships caused by the pandemic.


According to modelling from Northeastern University, if rich countries buy up the first 2 billion doses of the vaccine instead of making sure they are distributed equitably, then almost twice as many people could die from Covid-19. 


“An equitable outcome is needed to end the virus and ensure that reversals in development do not become permanent,” Cheikh Oumar Seydi, the Africa Director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says.


“We need strong global collaboration with leaders in government and the private sector to ensure that everyone can access safe, effective Coronavirus treatment, leaving no one behind,” he challenges


Cases abound showing that despite the challenges, African countries are innovating on their own and seeking lasting solutions. In South Africa, the government is deploying mobile testing units, while in Nigeria the private sector is raising money to bolster resources. In other West African countries, new and improved cash transfers are reaching millions; in Senegal, scientists are developing cutting-edge, low-cost ventilators and public-private partnerships are bringing internet connectivity to rural and remote communities in Kenya.


In the same vein, Zimbabwean telecommunications mogul, Strive Masiyiwa who is also the African Union Special Envoy, in collaboration with The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched the African Medical Supplies Platform in June. Its purpose is to ensure that countries on the continent have access to affordable, high-quality, lifesaving equipment and supplies, many of which are manufactured in Africa.