10 Facts About COVID-19 in Impoverished NationsThe COVID-19 pandemic is affecting countries worldwide, but it has created an additional burden for impoverished nations. The novel coronavirus is creating new concerns for vulnerable communities and is making current issues much worse. Here are 10 facts about COVID-19 in impoverished nations.

10 Facts About COVID-19 in Impoverished Nations

  1. The global poverty rate is projected to increase due to COVID-19. Globally, 71 million people are going to be forced into extreme poverty because of the effects of the novel coronavirus. This is a 0.59% increase in extreme global poverty and the first increase since 1998.
  2. Only 0.01% of people in low-income nations have been tested for COVID-19. In contrast, high-income countries have a test rate of 5.2% and upper-middle-income countries at 2.2%. Due to the lack of healthcare funding and infrastructure, low-income nations cannot meet the high demand for testing. With little access to testing, people in lower-income nations are at a much higher risk of complications with COVID-19 going undetected.
  3. More people in low-income nations are experiencing an income decrease than high-income nations. According to a poll by BBC World Service, 69% of people in poor countries received a pay decrease while 45% of people in high-income countries reported a pay decrease. More specifically, 91% of people in Kenya, 81% in Thailand, 80% in Nigeria, 77% in South Africa, 76% in Indonesia and 74% in Vietnam reported negative financial effects due to COVID-19.
  4. Developing countries may not get the number of vaccines needed to vaccinate the population. The United States, Japan and the European Union pre-purchased a minimum of 3.7 billion COVID-19 vaccines. Developing nations do not have the funds to purchase these vaccines. However, with $5.4 billion, impoverished nations will have sufficient vaccines for their people. The international community has only given $1 billion to this cause, meaning only 10% of people in low-income nations will get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. The number of food-insecure people will double this year because of COVID-19. This means 265 million more people are going to have food insecurity by the end of this year because of the novel coronavirus.
  6. Millions of children do not have access to education due to COVID-19. Half of the students in sub-Saharan Africa have not had access to education since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, about 1% of students in the most impoverished countries have access to the internet for remote learning. As a result, the poverty cycle will continue in developing nations because children do not have access to education.
  7. COVID-19 is causing more conflicts in developing countries. Many conflicts have arisen in developing countries. Riots over food shortages, extremists using COVID-19 to gain control and violent protests against governments are just some conflicts happening because of COVID-19.
  8. Low-income nations do not have enough supplies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Impoverished communities lack masks, hospital beds, ventilators and other necessary supplies to treat and prevent COVID-19. Lack of healthcare funding causes low-income nations to not have enough hospital beds. Also, the high demand in high-income nations causes masks, testing kits and other supplies to be sent there first, thus leaving developing nations behind.
  9. Death tolls for COVID-19 in developing nations may be much higher than reported. The vast amount of people who live in remote areas in developing countries causes a lack of reported deaths. Hospitals are few in low-income nations, so many people die at home and are buried in remote areas without being recorded.
  10. Of $4.4 billion dedicated to a COVID-19 response by U.S. Congress, only 0.1% is being used for an international response. More monetary funding for developing nations could help these countries get COVID-19 prevention and treatment supplies. Also, funding could help low-income nations feed vulnerable groups.

COVID-19 is yet another barrier to ending global poverty and will be a struggle for impoverished nations to recover from. With the help of the international community, low-income nations may recover from COVID-19 and its secondary effects sooner.

—Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Suicide in Low-Income CountriesOne person commits suicide every 40 seconds. Three out of four suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. As the 17th leading cause of death worldwide in 2015, suicide is a growing global health concern that requires immediate attention.

A recent study conducted by the London School of Economics determined trends that indicated a positive association between poverty and suicidal behaviors. Low-income countries in Asia and the Pacific, two of the poorest regions globally, also suffer from the highest burden of suicide in the world.

Suicide in low-income countries displays trends that are very different than those in high-income countries in Europe and North America. For example, high-income countries report a greater number of male suicides, and those who commit suicide usually use different methods than those in low-income countries. The differences between risk groups and trends between high- and low-income countries highlight the importance of targeted research and prevention strategies.

Most low-income countries, however, do not have the proper structure or information to effectively help those contemplating suicide. These countries face issues such as poor education and high mortality from infectious and noncommunicable diseases that consume their limited resources. In poor countries, there are less than 0.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, and, in high-income countries, there are 6.6 physicians per 100,000 population. Clearly, access to physicians and proper healthcare in poor countries is limited.

The recent study done by the London School of Economics is thus a positive step, despite its sobering results. Another recent study published by Global Mental Health exposed the significant knowledge gaps between suicidal information for high- and low-income countries. Therefore, any gathering of data regarding mental health in low-income countries is helpful and important.

Other organizations are also taking concrete steps toward helping those experiencing mental health problems in poor countries. In 2013, the 66th World Health Assembly announced the first ever Mental Health Action Plan of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The program seeks to remedy the problem of a shortage of mental health professionals by allowing more general health workers to aid in suicide prevention under the supervision of psychiatric experts. The WHO hopes to reduce the rate of suicide in countries by ten percent by 2020.

The actions by the World Health Organization and the London School of Economics are promising in the battle for mental health and against suicide in low-income countries. While their actions are steps in the right direction, further research and development of prevention strategies are necessary to effectively combat the high prevalence of suicide.

Lauren Mcbride

Photo: Flickr

Genetic Counseling for Developing Countries
Genetic disorders are diseases that are caused by a mutation in the genetic structure of the cell. These mutations can arise from a modification of the nucleic chromatin material, as well as an alteration of one of the coding bases in the DNA structure.

Genetic mutations arise from many different causes and manifest in various ways as well. The genetic mutations can arise at two different levels: at a nucleotide level, or at a chromosomal level. A nucleotide is a building block of DNA- the hereditary, genetic material of any living cell.

Each nucleotide triplet can code for an amino acid, which is, in turn, a building block of proteins. Any insertion or deletion of a nucleotide can lead to a wrong protein structure.

At the chromosomal level, portions of the chromosome- which contains huge portions of the DNA strands- can be altered. Both of these mutations can lead to an alteration of protein structure, which is the physiological and anatomical basis for life.

Genetic mutations can lead to many devastating consequences for those affected by it. Cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and neurodegenerative diseases like muscular dystrophy are some of the more familiar genetic diseases with terrible implications for the patient.

Genetic diseases are not generally preventable after an individual’s phenotype has been determined. Treatment of certain genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, requires constant medication and therapy. The treatment is also expensive and experimental in most cases and inaccessible in many developing countries.

Genetic counseling is becoming widely popular in the Western, resource-rich countries as a preventative measure for genetic disorders. Genetic counseling involves advising at-risk patients–or those with familial histories of a disease–of the chances of transmitting or developing a disease.


Many genetic disorders have now been classified on the basis of their mode of transmittance, and parents can be advised of how probable it is for their children to develop the disease. If the probability of affected children is high, they can also be advised of alternative options, as well as the severity of disease if a child is affected.

Unfortunately, genetic testing and genetic counseling are facilities that are unavailable in many places where they are needed. For instance, sickle-cell anemia is a disorder where the red blood cells in the body are of a distorted structure. If untreated or undiagnosed, the disease can have fatal complications for the patient.

Genetic research has indicated the high rate of prevalence of the disease in mid-African populations. Similarly, the risk of genetic diseases is high in many Arab countries, due to inter-family marriage practices.

Despite the high genetic frequency of the sickle cell anemia trait in central Africa, little to no counseling resources are available. For example in Nigeria- where the trait occurs in 20-30 percent of the population- there is not one genetic counseling clinic available.

Studies have reported equally low genetic education in many Arab countries. The lack of knowledge and informative resources for genetic disorders inhibit the prevention of such diseases, which in turn can be a considerable strain on resources as well.

In light of these statistics, there is an exigent need for the establishment of genetic counseling clinics. The stance of many scientists is to spur the research in Western countries to ultimately come up with highly efficient and cost-effective solutions.

However, the high instance of genetic disease and genetic susceptibility to diseases is an issue that needs to be addressed in the present.

The prevention of serious diseases in the developing world can only be partially successful if genetic counseling and testing are omitted. Healthy nations are, after all, capable of realizing their potential to the fullest and providing a better life for their citizens.

Atifah Safi

Sources: Afro, AJOL, BMJ, Genome, NIH, State
Photo: Google Images, Pixabay


The World Bank has released a report showing improving economic conditions for the world’s poor. Income inequality, however, continues to be a threat to progress.

The most recent report on gross national income (GNI) per capita shows the number of countries considered to be “low-income” have been halved over the last 20 years. In 1994, there were 64 low-income nations, whereas today there are 31.

Most of today’s low-income countries can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Among the poorest are Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Malawi. Some countries, including Somalia and Syria, are not included because data is incomplete.

To be considered low-income, a country must have a GNI of $1,045 or less. In the last 20 years, several countries graduated into the $1,046 to $12,736 range of “middle-income.”

At the other end of the spectrum were high-income countries: small, wealthy countries like Qatar, Singapore and Norway.

Gross national income is a common way of measuring the prosperity of a nation. When divided by a country’s population, it yields GNI per capita. The data is based on purchasing power parity and is adjusted for inflation.

The report demonstrates rising economic tides for the world’s poorest countries, largely driven by rapid growth in the last two decades. However, with growth often comes rising inequality.That’s why the World Bank says it will take more than growth to end world poverty.

In a paper released in 2014, the World Bank noted the importance of monitoring income inequality; “In countries with rising income inequality, the effect of growth on poverty has been dampened or even reversed,” the paper reported.

To address this concern, the World Bank recommended social protection programs that protect those left behind by growing economies.

“We need a laser-like focus on making growth more inclusive and targeting more programs to assist the poor directly if we’re going to end extreme poverty,” explained World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in a press release.

This echoes a concern held by many development agencies. Jobs alone are not enough to end extreme poverty and economic growth is often unequally distributed, leaving millions behind.

While the results of the latest GNI index are promising, there are still 31 low-income nations remaining. As more countries enter middle-income territory, the needs of those left behind by growth will need to be addressed.

Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: World Bank GNI Index, World Bank Press Release, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian


The World Bank evaluates a country’s gross national income per capita to assess their economic performance. The GNI per capita is calculated by dividing a country’s gross national income by its mid-year population. Low-income countries are defined by a GNI per capita under $1,045 per year, while this number falls between $1,045 and $12,746 for middle-income countries. High-income countries have a GNI per capita of $12,746 or higher. These group thresholds, defined in 1989, are adjusted for inflation each year, but they do not necessarily mean that all economies in a given group are developing in the same fashion.

Recent data from The World Bank shows that the number of low-income countries has decreased by about 50% since 1994, from 64 countries to 31. In 1994, 3.1 billion people lived in low-income countries, but that number has since fallen by 80% to 613 million.

These countries have “graduated” from low-income to middle-income through different processes. Countries such as Indonesia and Mongolia have increased growth by discovering or exploiting energy and metal resources, and investing in other natural energy resources. Several European and Central Asian countries, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, experienced recessions in the 1990s, but recent rebounds in growth have brought them over the middle-income threshold. Countries like India and Vietnam have experienced structural, political and economic reforms, while nations such as Pakistan are slowly becoming more peaceful. Other countries have benefitted from debt relief. Overall, these “graduated” countries are now experiencing faster and more stable economic growth.

Currently, all low-income countries except for Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti and Nepal are located in Africa. Most have agricultural economies, with agriculture accounting for about 25% of their GDPs, and may struggle with changing climate conditions. Many rely on remittances for promoting consumption and investment. Some lack the necessary healthcare services, which lowers the quality of life and impedes economic growth.

Growth in low-income countries will depend on improvements in public financial management and increased investments in infrastructure. Another important area is education, which opens up opportunities for advancement and is the key to upward mobility for many.

For countries to move up to the middle-income threshold, they will need to improve security and political conditions. Countries currently struggling with conflicts will need to focus on peace-building initiatives. Others will need to invest in fighting disease and improving public healthcare. Currently, the outlook for low-income countries is rather positive, with an expected increase in economic growth after 2015, and in coming years, more and more countries will graduate to middle-income status.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: Global Economic Perspectives, The Guardian, The World Bank 1, The World Bank 2, The World Bank 3
Photo: The Guardian