​​​​​​​Government dodges action to address secondary impacts of COVID-19 on lower income countries

​​​​​​​Government dodges action to address secondary impacts of COVID-19 on lower income countries

Amid speculation that rich countries are blocking access to vaccinations for developing countries, the International Development Committee (IDC) has published the Government’s response to its report on Coronavirus in developing countries: secondary impacts.

Within its report, the IDC warned the secondary impacts – ranging from non-covid healthcare to hunger, and crippling international debt to gender quality – could be more severe than the virus itself to countries in the Global South. The IDC found widespread disruptions to routine vaccination programmes, rising unemployment leading to fears of accessing food and lockdowns resulting in increased gender-based violence.

Given the scale of the secondary impacts of COVID-19 to many of the world’s most vulnerable, the IDC was disappointed that the Government rejected its recommendation to publish a COVID-19 strategy, suggesting that existing policy documents such as the Integrated Review covers these issues.

The Government also dismissed the necessity for a cross-departmental, multi-year Global Health Strategy, despite the IDC hearing evidence that 70% of countries reported that their routine immunisation programmes were all stalling due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. During an evidence session last week, the IDC was told that hospitals in Yemen are being forced to prioritise patients more likely to survive illness in ICU due to the limited resources in being able to treat all those in need.

Although the IDC was encouraged to see that, within their response, the Government is open to reviewing debt cancellation of low-income countries, the IDC remains concerned as this would be considered on a case-by-case basis and in coordination with multilateral organisations.

Commenting on the Government response, International Development Committee Chair Sarah Champion MP, said: 

“All around the world, countries are struggling with the pandemic and its aftermath on our economies and livelihoods. But no more so than developing nations. There are reports of greedy nations hogging vaccine supplies, and governments are continuing to turn a blind eye to the secondary impacts of the pandemic.

“The poor are getting poorer; the hungry are getting hungrier; the abused are getting more abused behind closed doors. The Government’s response today appearing largely to dismiss this shadow pandemic is deeply troubling. There is a pressing need for a plan to address these issues – but with no Global Healthcare Strategy and no COVID-19 Strategy, I have little faith that this Government is committed to helping countries recover from the pandemic.”

During last week’s evidence session on Yemen, the committee heard how long-term funding is needed to help support the most vulnerable in society in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated an already dire situation in the country.