The percentage of people living below the poverty line rose for the first time in 30 years, from 6.7% in 2019 to 7.1% last year. Worse, it is projected to continue increasing to 7.3% in 2021, as the financial consequences of the recession are felt.  It will take until 2030 to return to last year’s levels.

The change in absolute poverty is an important indicator at this stage, as it is the first tangible indicator of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Similarly, the rate of immunization is a proxy of the overall functioning of health systems. The drop has been dramatic: In 2019, 84% of children worldwide had been vaccinated for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP), a basic vaccination directly linked to reduction of childhood mortality. In 2020, 70% were—with an estimated 14 million children around the world who missed one or more doses of the vaccine, who will then be at higher risk of mortality in coming years.

As with other global crises, African countries, which have shown remarkable preparedness in the fact of Covid-19 and have been able to limit its spread, are still set to pay the highest price for the downturn.

Still, Gates Foundation’s CEO Mark Suzman thinks there is reason for concern, but not despair. If countries—particularly rich ones—are willing to sustain—in fact, increase—their commitment on the goals the United Nations had set to be achieved by 2030, things can be turned around. “It will be very tough, but it’s just about possible,” Suzman said.

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