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The Sting in COVID-19’s Tail
The Sting in COVID-19’s Tail
Op-Ed / Global

The Sting in COVID-19’s Tail

Originally published in Foreign Affairs

Developing countries may have suffered more from the pandemic economically and politically than they have in the realm of public health. For some, what comes next could be worse. 

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many feared that the disease would hit the world’s poorest countries the hardest—that cases would overwhelm hospitals, health-care workers would run out of equipment and supplies, and the death toll would be devastating. Those eventualities, thankfully, have not yet come to pass. From available data, there appear to be fewer deaths per capita in low- and middle-income countries than in their richer counterparts.

But developing countries may have suffered more from the pandemic economically and politically than they have in the realm of public health. A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study has found that social unrest increased after the SARS, H1N1, MERS, Ebola, and Zika pandemics, particularly in countries with high levels of inequality. COVID-19 has more potential than all those past diseases combined to increase poverty, deepen social fractures, and intensify conflicts.

The likely scope and severity of the COVID-19 recession are worse than those of any global economic crisis since World War II. In October, the World Bank announced that the global poverty rate will rise for the first time in more than two decades: the pandemic could push as many as 150 million additional people below the extreme poverty line (defined as living on $1.90 per day) by the end of 2021, erasing years of progress. A Brookings Institution analysis has noted that this growth in poverty could persist until 2030, particularly in the most politically fragile, low-income countries.

The full article can be read on Foreign Affairs' website.