As several countries move through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to ease lockdowns and reopen their economies and schools, they potentially face repeated waves if effective steps are not taken to tackle the disease everywhere. As a child-focused agency, World Vision is particularly concerned at the growing direct1 and indirect risks of the virus to children and young, especially those in countries with weaker health systems.
Effective support from major donor countries to strengthen weaker health systems is crucial to protect the world’s most vulnerable people, particularly those affected by conflict, disaster and extreme poverty who are living in overcrowded slums and displacement camps. If the virus continues to thrive in these situations, it will pose a perpetual threat to both the world’s poorest people and those living in wealthier countries alike. Borders cannot be closed indefinitely and the virus does not distinguish between nationality or class. Success in defeating this virus ultimately depends on a commitment to reaching the most vulnerable in every country, plus a universal recognition that, as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, the world is only as strong as its weakest health system.
Donor governments must scale up their own domestic efforts to COVID-19, but it is vital that they also support countries and communities affected by conflict and humanitarian crises – many of which are already on the brink. Not only are millions of lives at risk, but history has shown that countries devastated by illnesses like AIDS or Ebola will inevitably require massive investment to address the social and economic fallout.
The call for a unified global response to the threat of COVID-19 has also been echoed by thousands of people surveyed in seven major donor countries. The majority of those interviewed by World Vision in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UK, believed repeated outbreaks in other countries threatened their own nations, and that their governments should increase development aid spending to manage the spread of COVID-19 in countries with weaker health systems.
Understanding and building on the lessons learned during the first wave of COVID-19 will minimise the impact of second and subsequent waves, if, and only if everyone has equal access to what works. To limit the spread of the virus everyone must be given the ability to test, self-isolate if necessary, and receive treatment.
To this end, World Vision urges all donors to fully fund the UN’s $10.3 bn appeal to protect those in fragile and conflict-affected contexts now – an appeal that, as of August 12, was only 20.4 per cent funded. Without full funding, risks of future waves will continue to present a global threat.