COVID-19: The Most Vulnerable 91

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.

  • To see the Least Developed Countries dashboard, click here 

  • To see the Landlocked Developed Countries dashboard, click here 

  • To see the Small Island Developing States dashboard, click here 

The Most Vulnerable 91 Dashboard

The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS)  has launched the Most Vulnerable 91 Dashboard to better understand the scale of funding made available so far to support the 91 countries it works with.   

This research shows that it is precisely those countries with most to gain from development assistance – and conversely, most to lose if we fail to support them – that are getting the least support on a per capita basis to survive this crisis.    

The dashboard shows that, for the most vulnerable countries, USD$30 billion has been spent by international partners to address impacts of the pandemic by April 2021, an increase from US$8.5 billion in August 2020.

Any global recovery will depend on how the weakest economies and health systems can cope with the pandemic. While developed countries have taken large-scale action to deliver broad stimulus packages and protective measures, many of the most vulnerable countries do not have the means, or are too deep in debt, to do the same. 

The very nature of a global pandemic means that no single country will recover until all countries recover.   

How are the 91 most vulnerable countries being supported?

The global COVID-19 response has been estimated at US$21 trillion. This is a stark contrast to the current level of commmitments by international partners for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, with US$30 billion spent by April 2021 for the most vulnerable countries to external shocks and unequipped to respond. 



The capacity of these vulnerable countries to respond proportionately to major crises is highly limited. They thus need greater international support to weather the impacts of a crisis and be able to recover effectively. 

The per capita difference between some vulnerable countries and more resilient, richer part of the world is stark.  

In statements released by the LDCsLLDCs and SIDSPDF, they stress that the magnitude of international support to help them out of the current crisis is not commensurate with the challenges they face. 

Outmatched Resources

Despite limited resources, vulnerable countries have made attempts to mobilize domestic resources to address the pandemic.  

In Afghanistan for example, the Government allocated 0.5% of GDP for emergency pandemic response, including 0.1% to address urgent health needs. In Ethiopia, among the resources mobilised by the Government was a multi-sectoral preparedness and response plan amounting to US$1.64 billion. 

But while vulnerable countries have made national efforts to respond to the pandemic, their spending power is vastly outmatched by that of advanced economies.  

For example, in the United States, USD$1.47 trillion dollars of federal funding to address the impacts of COVID-19 had been spent by August 2020, or USD$4,467 per capita.  

And the most vulnerable countries fare poorly even when compared against other developing countries. 

How COVID-19 is affecting Development

The coronavirus has dealt a serious blow to global ambitions to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).    

The most vulnerable countries are facing multiple shocks concurrently – from climate change to crippling external debt to the pandemic.    

These shocks compound each other and make it much harder for vulnerable countries to adequately respond to the pandemic. In turn, this makes recovery harder – risking leaving them even further behind in the development stakes.  

While most developing countries are in the early stages of the pandemic, they are already dealing with its negative effects.    

UNDP estimates global human development—a combination of education, health, and living standards—could fall this year for the first time since 1990, when measurements began.  

Achieving the SDGs will depend on progress by developing countries and particularly those that are the most vulnerable which are currently immersed in the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.  

UNDP estimates global human development—a combination of education, health, and living standards—could fall this year for the first time since 1990, when measurements began.  

The World Bank has projected that extreme poverty will rise globally for the first time in over two decades. The number of extremely poor people (those making less than $1.90 a day) will rise by 70m-100m in 2020.

And by the end of 2020, 12,000 people per day could die from COVID-19 linked hunger (link to Oxfam).

Least Developed Countries
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.

Landlocked Developing Countries
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.

Small Island Developing States
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.