- The COVID-19 pandemic may increase the number of people battling acute hunger, the United Nations says.
- Climate change policies are coming second as officials focus on fighting the virus.
- Income losses for informal economy workers could be “massive”, according to the International Labour Organization.
- The pandemic could result in 7 million unintended pregnancies, the UN warns.
- Many mass vaccination campaigns are being temporarily suspended.
The impact of the corona virus crisis might be extending further than you think.
It’s no longer just the human and economic costs of the pandemic sparking the concern of scientists and humanitarians – other crises are at risk of being neglected by policy-makers or unwittingly exacerbated by the outbreak.
Here are five areas in which COVID-19 could have a significant effect.
COVID-19 leaves some of the world’s most vulnerable communities facing “a crisis within a crisis”, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Around the world, the economic downturn and rising unemployment will reduce people’s purchasing power, exacerbating the global hunger problem.
The 55 countries that are home to acutely food-insecure people in need of urgent humanitarian food and nutrition assistance “may face an overwhelming tradeoff between saving lives or livelihoods or, in the worst-case scenario, saving people from coronavirus so that they die of starvation,” according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2020.
“The number of people fighting acute hunger and suffering from malnutrition is on the rise again,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “And the upheaval set in motion by the COVID-19 pandemic may push even more families and communities into deeper distress.”
The weather was to be at the forefront of the political and business agenda in 2020. Saving the Planet was one of the key themes of the World Economic Forum 2020 meeting in Davos, where environmental activist Greta Thunberg spoke to the delegates.
Since then, the climate emergency has taken its back seat as policymakers focus on containing the pandemic. But the problem is not going away – 2019 was the second hottest year on record.
Although some argue that the reduction in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions due to lock-downs acts as an example of what can be done, others claim that concrete action plans are being placed in place. In New York, carbon monoxide levels shrank to half their usual March levels, and in China, the initial lockdown saw pollution levels fall by 25%.
“The coronavirus has shown us the scale of the response needed to address the climate crisis,” says Emily Kirsch, founder, and managing partner of Powerhouse Ventures, in a Forum article on the issue.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the global economy will contract 3% in 2020 with a deeper downturn than in the 2008–09 financial crisis. This is likely to drive unemployment all over the world, with the Fund forecasting that unemployment will grow to 10.4% this year, from 3.7% in 2019 to 9.2% in advanced European countries.
But it is not just those in formal employment that give rise to concern. According to the International Labor Organization, more than 2 billion people worldwide working in the informal economy are among the most vulnerable..
“They also have limited access to health care and do not have a replacement for income in the event of illness or lock-up,” says the International labor organization in a survey. “Most of them do not have the ability to operate remotely from home. Staying at home means losing their jobs, and they can’t eat without wages.
Income losses for informal economy workers will probably be “massive”, the ILO says, with its estimates showing their earnings declined by 60% globally in the first month of the crisis.
- Vaccination programmes
Measles and polio vaccine programmes are being postponed amid fears that the contact needed to deliver them could spread coronavirus.
At the end of March, the World Health Organization issued guidance to help countries maintain immunization services, but recommended that mass vaccination campaigns be temporarily suspended, underlining how difficult it is to balance ensuring the safety of health workers and protecting people from preventable diseases.
Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) forecast carrying on with routine immunization in Africa would prevent between 29 to 347 future child deaths for each excess COVID-19 death due to an infection acquired during a vaccination visit.
“Without vaccination these deaths could result from a range of diseases including measles, yellow fever, pertussis, meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhoea,” LSHTM says.
The research suggests the health benefits of deaths prevented by sustaining routine childhood immunisation in Africa outweigh the excess risk of COVID-19 deaths associated with vaccination clinic visits, according to Kaja Abbas, assistant professor in disease modelling at LSHTM.
- Unintended pregnancies
The UN warns that a lack of access to family planning, coupled with locks and major disruptions to health services, could lead to 7 million unintended pregnancies in the coming months. The facilities are closing, women are skipping medical appointments for fear of catching the virus, and it is becoming more difficult to get contraceptives due to disrupted supply chains.
The research by the UN Population Fund, UNFPA, and its partners indicate that if health systems remain interrupted and locks persist for six months, some 47 million in these countries will not be able to access modern contraceptives.
It’s not just unintended pregnancies highlighted in the report – it predicts there could also be a rise in gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriages, as the lockdown holds back preventative programmes.
“This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally,” says Dr Natalia Kanem, executive director of UNFPA. “The pandemic is deepening inequalities.”
Blog Information Credited to – WHO(World Health Organization) & World Economic Forum.