The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts across the globe, especially impacting the world’s poor and marginalized. Organizations like UNICEF are working tirelessly on COVID-19 response efforts to protect children in the face of a global pandemic, but the responsibility extends far beyond international organizations to support the world’s poor. In particular, Canada’s global COVID-19 response looks to support people in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.
The Pandemic’s Impacts
COVID-19 has changed the world in more ways than one. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 6.8 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide as of February 17, 2023. According to the Brookings Institution, the COVID-19 recession is “the deepest since the end of World War II.” The International Monetary Fund’s 2021 report showed a 7% loss in the global economy in 2020 alone, with nearly every country showing a decline, particularly the poorest countries.
While more than 50% of the school-aged children in developing countries faced learning poverty (the inability to read and comprehend a basic text by age 10) before the pandemic, disruptions in education due to the pandemic and associated lockdowns may have raised this rate to as much as 70%. Some students did not return to formal school at all after these disruptions.
Needless to say, the impacts of COVID-19 extend far beyond health outcomes and disproportionately impact the world’s poor.
A Strong Start to 2023
In the face of a threat like COVID-19 that requires a global response, Canada has kicked off 2023 with an announcement of a $70 million CAD contribution to UNICEF, bringing its total contribution to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Humanitarian Action for Children appeal to CAD $255 million. The ACT-A Humanitarian Action for Children appeal looks to support disadvantaged populations with COVID-19 tools and resources amid the pandemic. Canada was one of the earliest supporters of the effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19-related health resources.
Canada’s global COVID-19 response also includes an ongoing investment with UNICEF called the Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity (CanGIVE), which was announced in June 2022 and allows UNICEF to increase the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen health systems in 11 under-resourced developing countries. Not only will Canada’s contributions increase vaccine accessibility, administration/distribution and adoption but these funds will also support gender-sensitive health care efforts.
Additionally, the Government of Canada has taken a special interest in the rights and needs of women and girls, recognizing that the pandemic has magnified existing inequalities for impoverished/marginalized women. Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, launched in 2017, emphasizes supporting the poorest and most marginalized and ensuring “education, health, nutrition and sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Over the past three years, starting in February 2020, Canada’s international contributions to COVID-19 response efforts have surpassed $3 billion.
Canada’s Record of Support
- In April 2020, Canada supported the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust through a $1 billion loan.
- Since May 2020, Canada has provided temporary debt service relief to impoverished countries as part of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).
- Canada allocated $3.7 billion of its International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights to assist struggling countries.
- On September 21, 2022, Canada made a $1.21 billion allocation to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria in order to reignite efforts to fight these diseases.
- During the G20 Leaders’ Summit in 2022, Canada allocated $50 million to the Pandemic Fund to “address the significant financing gaps on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR).”
- Canada committed to donating 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine both to countries directly and to COVAX, a facility that “aims to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.”
- The country created the “Give a Vax” matching fund through which the government matched every dollar of COVID-19 donations that Canadians made through UNICEF Canada.
Canada’s global COVID-19 response stands as an example of the global duty to support those in poverty, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic but until poverty and its outcomes dissolve. These efforts that the government of Canada has undertaken extend toward poverty, health access, gender rights and more.
– Mahak Kumari