COVID-19 in Vulnerable States
The pandemic has exacerbated vulnerabilities and inequalities within countries, exposing deep vulnerabilities in whole groups of countries, especially the ones least able to respond to external shocks.
For many of these most vulnerable countries, especially the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the events of 2020 have confirmed just how interconnected the world has become – and how fragile we are when that interconnectedness is taken away.
From Afghanistan to Trinidad and Tobago to Zimbabwe, the pandemic has shut borders. National emergencies have been declared, and restrictions in the movement of people and goods have been enforced.
The virus has spread to almost every country in the world, with few exceptions.
Spared the sickness but not the pandemic
The majority of countries with no confirmed cases so far are the SIDS, including Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Many of the characteristics of SIDS that usually present development challenges, especially their remoteness and low population densities, may be the traits that have so far kept them safe from the virus.
But they are still not safe from the pandemic, because in a highly globalised and interconnected world, even countries with few or no incidences of COVID-19 are feeling the economic, social and political aftershocks.
Global Recession hits disproportionately in Vulnerable States
The International Monetary Fund has projected a deep global recession with a 5% drop in world GDP. But for smaller economies, the predicted contraction is almost 8% - double that of larger or more resilient economies.
Tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of jobs have already been lost.
SIDS that depend on tourism – even those with no cases of COVID-19 – stand by with empty hotels and deserted beaches, waiting for the visitors to return.
According to the World Bank, countries that rely on family members to send money home each month are set to lose remittances of US$110 billion this year. This would mean 800 million people, most of them in Least Developed Countries, unable to meet their basic needs, just as food prices rise and international supply chains lie crippled by the pandemic.
The pandemic is impacting the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS disproportionately with devastating impacts on human health, economies, education and other sectors.
Most of the vulnerable states lack sufficient domestic financial resources to cope, and when combined with high levels of debt and fragile health systems, the challenge is urgent.
Due to COVID-19, LDCs are facing both a health crisis and significant economic slow-down. These multi-faceted shocks limit fiscal space to respond to the pandemic.
The number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 are rising in LLDCs. European and Central Asian LLDCs are the most impacted in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
SIDS are highly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 both to the potentially devastating impacts on human health and to the broader social and economic effects of the virus and containment policies.
COVID-19 pandemic deepens sense of crisis around the world
The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged us into a global health, economic and social emergency. The scale of the task pull us out of this crisis is more than just once-in-a-generation. It is once-in-a-lifetime.
The crisis throws into doubt decades of progress on poverty eradication, food security, gender equality and other globally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals.
COVID-19 is impacting the world’s Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States in unprecedented, profound and disproportionate ways.
But these countries, often unable to afford comprehensive response plans, are not being supported sufficiently by the international community.