immunization in pakistanDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, 63 polio cases were reported in Pakistan. Four months after the COVID-19 outbreak occurred in Pakistan, more than 50 million children did not receive a polio vaccination, as immunization in Pakistan was delayed. At the end of July 2020, Pakistan was able to complete a round of vaccinations to cover 780,000 children.

Vaccinations and COVID-19

On April 1, 2020, Pakistan went into a nationwide lockdown for a month due to COVID-19. During the lockdown, immunization in Pakistan reduced by more than 50%. This reduction occurred mainly in impoverished regions and areas that were far from service delivery.

Healthcare workers’ contracting COVID-19 led to a halt in immunization services in some areas. More than 150 Expanded Programme on Immunization healthcare workers contracted COVID-19. Additionally, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) further reduced immunization, as healthcare workers were concerned about the risk of transmission while providing immunizations without proper PPE.

Transportation Interruptions Delay Immunization

Many immunizations in Pakistan were not delivered due to flight disruptions from COVID-19. Reduced immunization in Pakistan can lead to new outbreaks of other preventable diseases, like measles. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, an area with a large refugee population and limited healthcare access, has already seen an increase in measles cases.

The lack of public transportation available during the pandemic also made it difficult for many to travel to receive immunizations. People who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 were often afraid to go out in public and get immunized.

New mothers in particular were not willing to risk the travel to hospitals to get their children vaccinated. One new mother expressed her concern that the absence of vaccinations could lead to contracting preventable diseases, but she was also worried about the coronavirus. Furthermore, multiple private and public hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 and did not allow babies and mothers to receive their immunizations.

WHO’s Restrictions Led to Vaccination Difficulties

After the World Health Organization advised countries to postpone their immunization campaigns, Pakistan halted its door-to-door polio immunization program. The postponement of mass vaccination programs may lead to 117 million children worldwide not receiving a measles vaccine. Countries that have low immunization rates are at the highest risk. Pakistan’s routine vaccination campaign for tuberculosis, for example, reached only 66% of its slated coverage this year, compared to 88% in 2019.

In Karachi, the Health Education and Literacy Programme (HELP) works to support maternal and child health and maximize vaccination coverage. Founder of HELP, Dr. D. S. Akram, said that the delay in immunization could lead to hundreds of thousands of young Pakistanis missing their tuberculosis and polio vaccines. On average, 12,000 to 15,000 children are born in Pakistan every day. Since polio is still endemic in Pakistan, the suspension of the door-to-door polio immunization program may lead to more outbreaks in the future.

Once Pakistan started to come out of its lockdown in May 2020, clinics began to reopen in an effort to continue vaccination campaigns. Pakistan faced two obstacles in attempting to increase routine vaccinations: both opening hospitals and ensuring that parents felt safe to bring their children there. Hospitals had to ensure not only that there were enough vaccinations in supply but also that parents would be willing to get their children immunized.

In Pakistan, children who belong to poor households are affected by vaccination coverage the most. The reduction of immunization in Pakistan has occurred mainly in slum areas, where it is difficult to deliver healthcare products. Despite the delay in immunization caused by COVID-19, Pakistan continues to adapt in its efforts to return to routine vaccination.

– Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

Yemen's Coronavirus Crisis
Yemen’s civil war and the resulting violence considered currently the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” a crisis that is heavily rooted in the regional divide coupled with resource insecurity. The coronavirus pandemic which broke out at the beginning of 2020 and spread globally has only increased the strain on war-torn countries. Yemen’s coronavirus crisis strained the country’s already heavily underfunded healthcare system and its ability to reach the most vulnerable.

The Conflict in Yemen thus far:

To understand just how urgent the need is to address the coronavirus crisis in Yemen, one must first understand the already raging crisis for Yemeni civilians caught in this conflict.

  • The Civil War:                                                                                                                                                                                                  The civil war in Yemen started in 2015 and has caused an already poor country to continue to deteriorate under the strain of war. The conflict’s main actors are the government on one side and the Houthi led rebels on the other. The civil war has in many ways acted as a front for the proxy war raging between the two hegemons of the region: Saudi Arabia (which backs the government forces) and Iran (which backs the Houthi forces). Most of the conflict occurs on the west side of the country, where many of the major ports are located. This has heavily affected the ability for humanitarian aid to get to vulnerable civilians. These resources vary from food, water, to medical supplies. In addition, the final destination of the aid that is being delivered to Yemen is being contested by major aid donors like the World Food Programme. The organization has accused the Houthi rebels who control the northern part of the country of stealing aid meant for civilians according to a June report by Al Jazeera.

Results of the conflict in Yemen:

Results of Coronavirus in Yemen:

Around 80% of the country is dependent on humanitarian assistance. The United Nations (UN) has projected that there could be more casualties as a result of COVID-19 than have “been caused from the last 5 years of conflict, which is estimated at 100,000.”

Due to COVID-19, the number of children left without access to educated has more than tripled, totaling 7.8 million children. Aden, a major city in Yemen is struggling with a rising casualty count with “roughly 950 deaths in the first half of May” reported by CNN. Yemen is currently fighting two other major contagious diseases, and the rise of COVID-19 as a third has affected Yemen’s ability to distribute funding and medical resources, as they are already scarce due to the conflict casualties and the other viruses. (CNN) Many cities have filled hospitals to their full capacity and cannot admit any more people despite the growing number of cases (CNN).  People are being turned away due to a lack of access to ventilators (with some cities having less than 20 total). (CNN)

Steps being taken to control Yemen’s coronavirus crisis:

The dead are not allowed to be visited and mourned by friends and family to prevent social gathers and spread of the virus.

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is” increasing aid to Yemen” to address the COVID-19 crisis and its effects on civilians affected by the conflict (Al Jazeera). The situation in Yemen is bleak and represents the worst of what a global pandemic can do to a country whose systems and infrastructures are depleted from years of war. The best hope Yemen has for addressing their civilians in need is to use the aid they receive from the Un and similar actors and seek out the most vulnerable populations first and prioritize investing in more medical necessities like ventilators and other essential equipment.

Kiahna Stephens

Photo: Pixabay

Temporary Basic Income
A recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report advises that temporary basic income in 132 of the world’s low and middle-income countries could curb the spread of the new coronavirus and reduce the pandemic’s massive, adverse effects on global poverty.

Those Hardest Hit: Low and Middle-Income Countries

Co-author of the report, Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez, explained in a blog post that low and middle-income countries are more vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID-19 on the workforce. This is due to a few significant reasons, e.g., 80% of workers in low-income countries work in jobs that cannot adjust to accommodating lockdown procedures. Furthermore, 70% work in the informal sector — only 14% of which have access to employment-based, social protection programs. Compounding these vulnerabilities is the existing high level of poverty in low and middle-income countries. All of these variables considered, low and middle-income countries have taken disproportionate losses in the face of the pandemic and will struggle to rebuild.

Temporary Basic Income: A Solution

The solution that the UNDP proposes — temporary basic income: an unconditional emergency aid that is an “urgent, fair and feasible way of stopping people falling into poverty or further impoverishment as a result of the pandemic.” UNICEF reported that direct cash transfers, how temporary basic income would be delivered, are among the most effective poverty-reduction methods. The basic income recommended by the UNDP would affect nearly 2 billion people around the globe, in 132 countries. Most of these nations are in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific. The basic income would eventually cost between $200 and $465 billion per month, which is equivalent to between 0.27% and 0.64% of the collective GDPs of all countries involved. The World Economic Forum explained that the cost of this temporary basic income could theoretically come from these countries’ suspended debt payments, totaling around $3 trillion this year. This, in turn, could pay for up to 16 months of temporary basic income, depending on the distribution system.

Delivering Temporary Basic Income

The UNDP made three recommendations for the delivery of temporary basic income. Moreover, each recommendation depends on country-specific access to data and resources. Adding on to vulnerable individuals’ existing incomes to make sure they exceed a minimum of 70% above the poverty line in their respective country. “Lump-sum transfers” are given to vulnerable individuals totaling half of the average income in the respective country. Uniform “Lump-sum transfers” given to vulnerable individuals in all 132 affected countries that meet a minimum of exceeding the “typical level of the poverty line among upper-middle-income countries.”

Slowing the Spread of COVID-19

Temporary basic income could solve multiple problems at once, but most importantly, it would slow the spread of the new coronavirus by allowing workers the financial flexibility to stay home. While this income program cannot retroactively reverse existing pandemic economic damage — it would slow the rapid increase in global poverty. Increasing income could also affect a wide range of existing issues, worsened by the pandemic. E.g., spending on education, community health and gender inequalities that affect working women.

Model Programs Currently in Practice

UNICEF reported that Spain’s government rolled out a “Basic Income scheme” in June, reaching about 2.5 million vulnerable people. At the time, the country faced a projected 13% decline in GDP due to the pandemic. The basic income program will remain in place in Spain after the pandemic slows as a permanent social protection program. A similar program has also rolled out, in Tuvalu. However, the scope of the UNDP proposed program, would be much larger and thus, more far-reaching.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Unsplash

 

Recover Better Publication
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the conditions that the world’s most vulnerable populations continually face. Social distancing and mobility restrictions are changing consumer behavior, disrupting supply chains and straining certain sectors, like tourism. These social and economic challenges are disrupting, and in some places halting, progress toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Through these unprecedented challenges, the U.N. is emphasizing the importance of using the global response to “recover better.”

The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs released a new publication entitled Recover Better: Economic and Social Challenges and Opportunities in late July 2020. The report outlines plans for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals while taking into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Written by members of the U.N. High-level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs, the Recover Better publication comprises of seven essays, each addressing a different region or sector.

5 Takeaways from the Recover Better Publication

  1. New technologies and automation present great potential for developing countries. Their introduction has improved the quality and accessibility of communication, basic necessities and medical care. However, many unintended consequences may follow the implementation of new technologies in developing countries. For example, technology can add pressure to employment in human-labor reliant industries, exacerbate the digital divide and raise ethical issues. These include increasing inequality and data privacy issues, particularly with medical data. Considering the social and economic environment into which technology is introduced is a critical step in effective integration.
  2. As the global economy faces high levels of uncertainty, it is important to contextualize its current state by taking into account past patterns. Making recommendations for the future requires understanding the trends that were in place leading up to the pandemic. The global economy saw a deceleration in growth in 2019, which was particularly pronounced in developing countries. Both inefficient labor allocation and a lack of investment in research and development contributed to this slowdown. Importantly, the events of early 2020 exacerbated these issues.
  3. Allocating labor and resources toward a country’s strongest, most productive sectors is a critical factor in reducing income inequality between developed and developing countries. Utilizing comparative advantage in this way can maximize potential economic growth, leading to an increase in employment and higher wages. This way, countries can increase productivity in their strongest sectors while maintaining internal income equality.
  4. Natural resource management and sustainability should be at the forefront of each country’s socio-economic development plans. Recent industrialization has spiked carbon emissions and placed many environmental pressures on countries. In order to promote sustainable development, it is critical to improving the efficiency of natural resource use so that it is not surpassed by labor productivity and demand. The adoption and creation of sustainable technologies can help achieve that.
  5. The pandemic intensifies the challenges that low-income and vulnerable populations face. Nearly 71 million people will return to a state of poverty due to many socioeconomic factors, including job loss and recession. This will cause the first increase in global poverty rates since 1998. Among those groups most at risk for falling behind are inhabitants of conflict and post-conflict settings, youth, older persons, women, refugees, indigenous persons and those with disabilities.

While the Recover Better publication provides specialized insight into distinct areas of concern, it develops the general message that the Sustainable Development Goals can act as guidelines during recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The principles shared in Recover Better can leverage COVID-19 recovery efforts to inform existing strategies used to promote sustainable global development.

– Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in New Zealand
New Zealand, an island country located in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, is home to a population of about 4.8 million people and comprises of nearly 600 islands. In 2019, New Zealand received the rank of one of the world’s richest countries, ranking fifth after Switzerland, Hong Kong, the United States and Australia. Despite its status as a rich country, New Zealand still has hidden issues with poverty, food insecurity and hunger.

Hunger and Poverty in New Zealand

Nearly one in five children in New Zealand are living in “relative poverty,” according to a report done by Stats NZ in June 2019. This number rises to one in four in the case of the Māori population (New Zealand’s indigenous people). Though it is a relatively wealthy country, many New Zealanders live with food insecurity. Defined as a lack of access to healthy and nutritious food, food insecurity has negative effects on families, children, health and even mental health.

New Zealand’s Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) estimated that the weekly cost to feed a person ranges from 29 to 74 NZD (depending on age and sex). For a family of four, that means food costs can average over $400 NZD a month on top of other costs like utilities, rent, clothing and education. According to CPAG, about 7% of New Zealanders experienced severe food insecurity in 2008/2009, and 3% — one-third of New Zealanders — experienced moderate food insecurity. The implications of this, even when dealing with moderate food insecurity, were large. CPAG reported on families struggling to feed their children, often opting for unhealthy food because it was cheapest, going through garbage to salvage food or forgoing food altogether to make sure their children did not go hungry.

COVID-19’s Impact

Food insecurity, fortunately, has reduced to about 10% of New Zealanders in 2019. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, the Auckland City Mission estimated that that number had rocketed to 20%. Between citizens losing jobs, panic-buying at grocery stores and other factors, the pandemic is threatening more widespread food insecurity in New Zealand. Emergency food assistance services have seen large spikes in demand. Additionally, many essential workers may be working full-time but are still not making enough to put food on the table.

Though it expects the winter months (June through August) to be harder on families, especially with the pandemic, Auckland City Mission was able to provide emergency food to over 23,000 families and individuals who were “in desperate need” over the last financial year. Additionally, when New Zealand released its 2020 budget in May 2020, Auckland City Mission released a statement noting that its social services support package meant the mission could help even more families who are facing food insecurity this winter.

The Future of Food Security

Food insecurity in New Zealand remains an important problem. In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, these problems are becoming harder to ignore. Recently, CPAG released a paper about its ideas to solve food insecurity for New Zealand’s youth, including food programs in schools. It showed that with awareness and advocacy, people can begin to find solutions to these problems. In fact, the 2020 budget plans to expand an existing school lunch program to ensure that by the end of 2021, 200,000 students will receive a healthy lunch every day at school, up from the 8,000 currently receiving aid from the program. This sort of increase is a promising step to reducing the amount of food insecurity for New Zealand’s children.

Additionally, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Auckland City Mission has gone from supporting 450 families to over 1,200 and expect that number to stay high throughout the winter. Thanks to the 2020 New Zealand budget, Auckland City Mission will be able to continue helping those in need.

It is an unprecedented time for food insecurity in New Zealand, especially on top of existing challenges lower-income families have been facing. However, with help from the government and organizations like Auckland City Mission, the country is beginning to put more focus on providing food to those who need it most.

Sophie Grieser
Photo: Pixabay

foreign aidAs the COVID-19 pandemic spread over the world, so did foreign aid in many forms. Countries were sending masks, money, equipment and even healthcare professionals. Despite suffering from the effects of the pandemic themselves, China, Taiwan and South Korea all contributed to providing 16 countries around the world, including in Europe and Asia.  Even the U.S. became among those who were aid recipients when a shipment of masks and equipment from Russia arrived in April 2020. Perhaps most notably, Italy received foreign assistance from the U.S., China, Cuba and Russia among other countries.

Concerns About Aid Effectiveness

A common misconception regarding aid is that developed countries rarely benefit from foreign aid. Studies have shown that most Americans think the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid. Moreover, many aid opponents argue that aid is ineffective, costly and creates dependence.

Even Africans, who receive 20% of U.S. aid, have raised concerns about aid effectiveness. In 2002, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said “I’ve never seen a country develop itself through aid or credit. Countries that have developed—in Europe, America, Japan, Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea and Singapore—have all believed in free markets. There is no mystery there. Africa took the wrong road after independence.”

Foreign Aid to Developed Countries

The pandemic has shown that strong relations and aid are necessary for countries to overcome economic and healthcare challenges. Foreign aid has a complicated history, but many developed countries were recipients of aid in the past and still benefit from it in many ways.

Italy received around $240 billion in aid from the E.U. during the pandemic. If a similar aid package was given to Sub-Saharan Africa, it could provide primary healthcare to every African. If used to relieve food insecurity, $240 billion could end world hunger by 2030. That is not to say that foreign aid to developing countries should come at the expense of the recovery of developed countries. But contextualizing the funding helps demonstrate what foreign aid could do if distributed equally.

During the destruction of Notre Dame in Paris, France received $950 million in total from donations globally. The White House also pledged to help rebuild France, a year after announcing a reduction to the foreign aid budget. When it comes to aid, the question is not whether to provide it or not—it is about who to provide it to.

Foreign Aid to Developing Countries

Contrary to popular belief, the developing world does not receive nearly enough aid. The average Sub-Saharan African country receives less than $1 billion in aid annually. Following the Ebola outbreak in 2013 – a crisis that is most notably remembered for U.S. involvement – the WHO received around $460 million to help affected West African countries. The World Bank estimated that the outbreak cost $2.2 billion for these countries.

As African and Latin American countries see their first huge waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now crucial that the U.S. and other countries continue to increase their foreign aid budget to help these nations recover. In addition to the pandemic, most developing countries are dealing with food insecurity as well as continuing political and civil unrest. Although aid alone will not resolve all these issues, it can alleviate the impact of the crisis. By being aid recipients themselves, Western and European countries can understand the importance of foreign assistance and take the necessary steps to help those in need.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Food Supply Chains
Despite immense stress due to COVID-19, food supply chains have demonstrated resilience by offering a potential avenue for long-term poverty alleviation. The pandemic has threatened food security around the globe, with Feeding America reporting that as many as 17 million people could experience food insecurity in its wake. As such, food supply chains play an important role in assuring individuals’ access to food.

The Resilience of Food Supply Chains Amidst COVID-19

Food supply chains are the mechanism by which raw food becomes consumer-ready. These supply chains consist of farm production, processing, transportation and consumption. There are two primary categories of food supply chains. Firstly, domestic chains, in which food is produced and consumed in the same country. Second, international chains, in which food is transported across borders. Both domestic and international chains have been severely affected by the pandemic. However, there are notable differences in the impact on the two systems. This is due to their unique types of labor, transportation, and consumer demand among other conditions.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explained that food supply chain complications disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries. Wealthier countries, which use large-scale international chains, have more capital- and knowledge-intensive structures. These international supply chains have shown greater resilience amidst the pandemic. The recovery of international chains helps explain why low-income countries are experiencing disproportionate effects of the pandemic on food security.

In comparison, low-income countries primarily rely on small and medium domestic chains. Small domestic chains are more labor-intensive and thus affected more heavily by pandemic labor restrictions. Furthermore, the labor-intensive components of food supply chains are the hardest-hit by COVID-19. This impact stems from mobility restrictions, reduced workplace capacities and illness that limits employees’ ability to complete their jobs.

The Potential to Fight Poverty

Ensuring logistical flexibility and employee health is imperative in mitigating harm to domestic food chains. Social innovations are emerging to address the labor needs created by the pandemic. These innovations aim to increase the “flexibility of labor sourcing and timing,” by improving access to transportation, decreasing reliance on physical labor in certain production zones and improving hygiene and health education to avoid outbreaks in densely populated work areas.

Far beyond social innovation in labor, though, many believe the COVID-induced threat to food supply chains could provide an incredible opportunity for long-term poverty alleviation. One contributor to the International Food Policy Research Institute wrote: “During COVID-19, the bureaucratic, financial, logistical and technological reasons that always seemed to make actions impossible or improbable have fallen away.”

Food supply chain innovations have also addressed financial, managerial and health complications. These issues affect supply chains both in the short and long terms. For instance, digital innovation and the growth of e-commerce have played significant roles in enabling supply chains to overcome previously existing complications in the face of the pandemic.

Every type of food supply chain has increased e-commerce use. E-commerce decreases contact between workers and consumers and allows for easier food access around the globe. Apps developed by governments and businesses in places like India and China have allowed consumers direct access to food providers. Overall, these changes simplify the transportation process for food producers in countries around the world.

Innovations in Food Supply Chains

Large-scale supply chains and companies have also supported small and medium domestic supply chains with kick-starter financial support for COVID-19. Aid has also been provided to families and communities through voucher programs. Additionally, the World Bank has been working to stabilize prices across the various supply chains. By investing in the infrastructure and labor flexibility of domestic supply chains, governments and development partners have the power to strengthen global food security.

The threats to food supply chains have considerable policy implications, the OECD explains, underscoring the importance of open borders for importing and exporting food items. The World Bank released a joint statement calling for the free international movement of food to prevent a food insecurity emergency, calling on countries to cooperate to ensure food accessibility around the world. The statement also emphasizes the importance of making every step of food logistics accessible to prevent all people from going hungry, especially during pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.

– Emily Rahhal
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 on Migration
The novel coronavirus spread at dramatic rates since its discovery in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Some countries including China, Vietnam, New Zealand and Norway have successfully stopped the spread with an aggressive response; other countries, however, have been unwilling or unable to make similar progress. Worldwide confirmed cases currently top 20 million. While the virus is certainly transforming many aspects of life, the impact of COVID-19 on migration has become especially significant.

How COVID-19 Affects Refugees

About 80 million people have experienced forcible displacement from their home countries throughout the world. Additionally, 72 million of those asylum seekers are currently living in developing countries that lack the resources to aggressively fight a pandemic like COVID-19.

The International Rescue Committee estimates that up to 1 billion cases of COVID-19 could hit fragile countries housing the world’s refugees, such as Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. Yemen has struggled with a major humanitarian crisis since its civil war escalated in 2015. Today an estimated 24 million people within the country are in need of assistance, with half of those individuals being children.

In most refugee camps, social distancing is impossible. One can find a prominent example of this difficulty in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This camp crams more than 850,000 Rohingya refugees into a very small, dense area. These refugees have severely limited access to health care. The lack of clean water for handwashing could prove disastrous when attempting to combat COVID-19. In addition, malnutrition and poor sanitation make refugee camps like Cox’s Bazar a potential hotbed for viral transmission. Medical depots at the camp only have 300 beds available and will be overrun if an outbreak emerges. These makeshift hospitals lack the lifesaving respirators needed for those in critical condition. In addition, medical workers must deal with COVID-19 on top of other preexisting health crises. Diseases like cholera, malaria and tuberculosis remain a constant issue.

The impact of COVID-19 on migration is evident in the record low numbers of refugee resettlement. For the time being, the United Nations has suspended relocation. People living in these unsuitable conditions are in dire need of help. Rather than taking in these refugees, most countries have chosen to lock down their borders without exception.

The Fate of Migrant Workers

Many industries in developed and undeveloped countries alike rely on a steady stream of foreign laborers. In the age of COVID-19, there is a premium on skilled workers in key industries like healthcare. As such, some countries have expedited the migration process for doctors, nurses and scientists.

Other job types have not experienced such demand. In countries like the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers are unemployed or have unpaid wages as a result of the pandemic. These men and women have no income to send back to their families and home villages, and many face a difficult decision: return home to their families where work is even rarer or scramble to find another job under their visa before being deported.

An Opportunity for Change

The long-term impact of COVID-19 on migration remains unclear. Asylum seekers in refugee camps will likely be the last on the priority list when vaccines become available, thus delaying their relocation even further. Until refugees obtain similar health protections to citizens, coronavirus will never fully resolve.

As lockdowns gradually end, the countries hit hardest by COVID-19 will face the immense task of rebuilding their economies. As part of this process, there will likely be a focus on hiring citizens over migrant workers. Governments may choose to distribute funds to domestic industries and put foreign aid on the back burner.

There is, however, a chance to reimagine human mobility. Portugal, Ireland and Qatar moved to ensure everyone has access to health care, regardless of their citizenship status. Several European Union countries have emptied their immigration detention centers to avoid outbreaks. Italy’s new amnesty law has granted 200,000 work permits to migrant workers.

Migrant workers are a major contributor to the global GDP, performing jobs across skill levels. Foreign labor is vital to successful economies, and a more fluid entry system would help expedite the road back. It is finally in the self-interest of governments worldwide to provide an easier path for these workers and mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on migration.

– Matthew Beach
Photo: Pixabay

Tech Access PartnershipScience, technology and innovation are critical factors that contribute to socio-economic development. They are the engines of economic mobility in advanced countries and allow these regions to respond to dynamic challenges, with greater ease. However, a global, digital divide exists between developed and developing countries. This divide is caused by differences in access to technology and the infrastructure that supports it. Moreover, the digital divide has far-reaching implications beyond just a particular society’s relationship with communication technology and internet coverage. A lack of digital access also hinders access to medical technology, industrial and operational technology and production capability. Below is more information about an exciting initiative called the Tech Access Partnership which aims to address the core of the issue.

A Need Emerges

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and advanced medical devices increased, sharply. Yet, countries with limited production capability were unable to distribute the necessary resources, due to limited technical knowledge, shortage of manufacturing facilities and insufficient compliance with state regulations. These local deficiencies highlighted the urgent need to fill the gap in the production capabilities of underdeveloped regions. Through addressing these local deficiencies, these regions would enable themselves to respond effectively to the crisis and meet their citizens’ needs.

Thinking Long-Term

The Tech Access Partnership (TAP) is the United Nations Technology Bank’s latest collaboration involving the U.N. Development Program, U.N. Conference on Trade and Development and the World Health Organization. The program launched in May of 2020 to increase the production of essential, life-saving medical technology through technical expertise and market integration. By providing training and resources to developing countries, TAP hopes to create sustainable operations as opposed to temporary solutions, to bolster long-term production.

The Tech Access Partnership

The Tech Access Partnership has three main functions. First, it provides emerging manufacturers with design specifications, product information and technical knowledge to increase production capabilities. Second, the partnership also offers guidance regarding market information and production regulations. Furthermore, the scope of the project continues with providing technical support to tackle issues that arise during manufacturing processes, itself. Third, the organization acts in a partnership development capacity  by forging partnerships with private sector companies and global organizations alike. This aim is to provide expertise, optimize production and accelerate distribution.

Technology Access in a COVID-19 Era

In the past, inequalities in the field of technology have had an impact on educational attainment and opportunities for youth. Today, they pose an increased challenge — technology is a crucial component of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without access to life-saving medical technology and protective equipment, developing countries are unequipped for responding to the devastating impacts of the virus. By providing these countries with the resources and expertise to produce these items themselves, TAP promotes self-sufficiency that can speed up the path to recovery. TAP’s mission of creating equity in the field of medical technology is crucial to the pandemic response. By expanding the skills and capacity of local manufacturers, the initiative will accelerate technical innovation in the long term. This, in turn, may open the doors to improved public health and steady economic growth, in the long-term.

– Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

China during COVID-19Amid a global pandemic, every nation is doing what it determines best to eradicate the COVID-19 virus. As of June 18, China reported 28 active cases and 0 fatalities. China even brings in people that have been exposed or too close contact. It released 153 people from exposure observation. While nations have methods that differ from one another, China is minimizing the number of cases substantially. These are five facts about China during COVID-19.

5 Facts China During COVID-19: Early Months

  1. China shut down its major operations by late December. The government worked to contain the spread of the virus by closing public transportation and non-essential businesses. Officials took to disinfecting the streets and testing at every facility. However, by February, the hospitals still became overloaded with COVID-19 virus patients.
  2. Hospitals organized a counseling hotline for citizens to call and locate beds in hospitals that were available. The volunteers that run the hotline then record the information and keep active track of open beds in local hospitals to ensure no bed was going unused. The quicker they can locate open beds, the sooner hospitals can care for patients. The hotline also offered counseling services.
  3. As of June 17, there was a full sweep testing spree to determine any straggling cases. There were 91 confirmed imported cases, all non-severe. On top of this, there were 265 confirmed cases among 31 different provinces. Nine of those cases were severe. Hospitals were able to discharge 78,394, considering them cured. The governments had traced and contacted 754,966 people who had been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. Because of China’s vigilant virus tracing, each region is caring for its sick as needed and 5,220 of those traced are under observation.
  4. In Beijing, in May, for the first time since December students are back to in-person learning with the guidelines in place to accommodate social distancing and facial protection masks. Schools are placing the students’ desks three feet apart. Both instructors and students are wearing masks.
  5. Tourist sites are reopening, but they are limiting attendance. Shanghai Disneyland opened in May. After being on lockdown since December, Hubei has contained the virus after five months. The province has gone one month with no new cases. Every case has been reported and everyone has been tested and under observation. Any Chinese national traveling outside of China must go into isolated quarantine for 14 days after arriving home. This gives them the ability to travel safely without being restricted to lockdown any further.

Success So Far

China has taken exceptional measures to eradicate the COVID-19 virus and prevent any further spread. So far, it has been able to slowly reopen during COVID-19 and still keeping the case numbers to a dwindling minimum. China is determining how to maintain social activities while keeping citizens safe. These five facts about China during COVID-19 show that good safety practices and diligence may be key to reopening during the virus. Hopefully, this practice will continue to keep the numbers of patients down. Clearly, citizens and officials alike are taking these measures and precautions seriously.

Kim Elsey
Photo: Flickr