“Without access to vaccines, the gap will widen further,” warned the multi-faceted UN agency, calling for “strong partnership and cooperation at national, regional and global levels”.
World Bank President David R. Malpass pointed out that inequality is profound and includes not just vaccinations, but also median income, interest rate differentials, bankruptcy procedures and access to credit, all of which put poorer countries at a disadvantage.
He fully recognized the “debt problem of the poorer countries” and updated the event at his most recent meeting with the leading industrial nations of the G20. He welcomed the speeding up of the International Development Association (IDA) 20 process, which he sustained because “It is the World Bank’s very effective platform for providing discounted aid and grants to the poorest countries. ”
In response to COVID, Malpass said the World Bank is “making some progress on debt transparency, although securing debt remains an issue”.
He outlined country-by-country plans to help developing countries become more resilient in the coming year, including fighting poverty, tackling climate change and efforts to strengthen education and health systems.
“We try to enable transformative, scalable change for people who live in poorer countries,” he emphasized.
World Bank executive director Axel van Trotsenburg said the pandemic had triggered “a huge reversal in progress” across societies and stressed the need to focus on crisis preparedness.
He advised against only having a “narrow view” of health, but rather viewing the entire agenda as “best summarized with the SDGs”, the 17 goals for sustainable development.
“We have to show solidarity, not only in the health sector, but in the entire development spectrum,” said van Trotsenburg, emphasizing that we will survive and prosper “only together”.
Funding framework required
World Trade Organization (WTO) head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said developing countries that export raw materials are facing falling prices and tourism has collapsed during the pandemic.
She stressed that the world needs a financial framework to cope with emergency preparedness and response and that supply chains need to be kept open to better protect economies.
Women “torn in all directions”
Henrietta H. Fore, head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), shed light on the plight of women and children during the pandemic.
Noting that women are often the primary caregivers, both as health workers and at home, she said that “they are really torn in all directions” and expressed concern that their participation in paid work is “declining” is.
“We are very concerned about all of the services women and children typically access in their normal lives,” she added, explaining that they are either inaccessible or often not available at all.
The UNICEF chief shared some amazing statistics, including that 140 million families are likely to fall below the poverty line. 168 million children have not gone to school for more than nine months; and one in three students does not have access to distance learning.
And while it is important for children to keep using these services, they are not always available, she said.
“So often the woman in the household becomes not only a parent but also a teacher, and then it is very difficult for her to be out of the house,” in order to keep a job, she added.
Compensate for crises
Another concern, Ms. Fore said, was that many children, especially girls, may not return to school as their parents see them as family carers and consider marriage to protect them once they leave school.
“It means that for every two boys who go back to a classroom, maybe just one girl,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the lack of services “has a huge impact on women and children, and we cannot trade one crisis, the pandemic, for another crisis in which we are losing the women and girls and children of our world”.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), cited a lack of political will and weak global solidarity as obstacles to the fair distribution of vaccines to low-income countries.