The past month saw some grim news about COVID-19: alongside the thousands who have died, the pandemic could also push an additional 130 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, and a new report warns of the disproportionate impact on young people and women.
But there are also successes and examples of effective responses worth recognizing. Here are six stories you may have missed this month in the world of global development.
Celebrating leadership and success in Africa
Why are Africa’s coronavirus successes being overlooked, asks Afua Hirsch in an op-ed for the Guardian. Senegal began planning its COVID-19 response in January, closing borders, developing a contract tracing plan, and developing testing kits. The result: Only 30 deaths have occurred in the nation of 16 million people. Ghana has similarly low rates of COVID-19, due also to proactive leadership and innovative techniques. One technique, called “pool testing,” involves testing multiple blood samples and then following up with individual tests only if a positive result is found. The World Health Organization is now studying the advantages of this approach. While concerns about the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on African countries are important, Hirsch’s piece is a good reminder to celebrate leadership and success during this pandemic.
AIDS activists Larry Kramer passes away
Larry Kramer, the outspoken AIDS activist who helped bring awareness to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, died on 27 May at the age of 84. Known for his raucous manner, Kramer raised the alarm of the millions of the deaths that HIV/AIDS could cause, bringing attention to the overlooked crisis and helping shift US national health policy in the 1980s. He founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a service organisation for HIV-positive people, and later Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). Describing Kramer’s profound mark on history, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in 2002: “In American medicine, there are two eras: before Larry and after Larry.”
Poverty rates could increase after COVID
The United Nations is warning that COVID-19’s impact on health, income, and education could reverse human development for the first time in 30 years. An additional 34.3 million people could fall into extreme poverty in 2020 because of COVID-19, according to new U.N. projections. And by 2030, an additional 130 million people may fall into extreme poverty, marking a major setback to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. More than half of that increase is predicted to be in Africa.
Concerns about rates of TB, AIDS, and malaria
In addition to poverty rates, there are fears of increased rates of other diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent report, global cases of tuberculosis could increase by up to 11% between 2020 and 2025, due to delays in TB services. That would be equivalent to 6.3 million new cases of TB in five years — levels not seen since 2013. AIDS deaths could double in Africa due to disruptions in the supply chain. And organisations are working to ensure malaria treatment can continue safely during COVID. In a recent event, ONE CEO Gayle Smith discussed the health issues we can’t afford to overlook during COVID-19.
Delays in Africa’s free trade agreement
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has been delayed from its planned launch on 1 July, as African leaders focus on COVID-19. But economic experts are urging African governments not to let the free trade agreement stall during the pandemic, arguing that free trade will be crucial to recover economically from COVID-19. The agreement would create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, uniting 1.3 billion people in the largest free trade area in the world. AfCFTA Secretary-General Wamkele Mene said he was confident the deal will go through eventually, but that the delay is the “responsible thing to do” to avoid distracting leaders during the pandemic.
COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on young people and women
A new study from the International Labour Organization is calling attention to the “multiple shocks” to young people and the economic fallout they’ll face from COVID-19, potentially for decades to come. The study says young workers risk becoming the “lockdown generation,” missing out on work, education, and training opportunities. Before the pandemic, 328 million young people — or three-quarters of young workers — were employed in the informal economy and many lack benefits or the legal protections during an economic downturn. The impact is worst for young women, the report warns. Women represented a significant portion of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, such as garment making and food services.