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COVID-19 and the need for global leadership: Fighting for a common cause

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COVID-19 has changed the world, and more changes are yet to come. The pandemic and the climate crisis are the two greatest global emergencies since the Second World War.

Known for its landmine clearance expertise, HALO teams across the globe are now picking up a new form of PPE. This report shows how HALO is using ambulances, strategic planning skills and community networks to support health authorities, the UN and NGOs on the global COVID-19 front line.

Without urgent action, COVID-19’s impact will extend far beyond the current public health emergency. Recession, increased poverty and heightened inequality will hit the world’s poorest and conflict-affected communities hardest.

Preventing long-term suffering requires innovation, bold policy and international leadership that is still shamefully absent. The war on COVID-19 will only be won when it is won everywhere.

Over five million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, with more than 330,000 deaths.The true number is unknown, but will be far higher due to an absence of systematic testing and contact tracing.
As national governments work to slow the pandemic, a concerning picture is emerging about its wider impact.

The IMF forecasts the worst global economic downturn in ninety years, with the World Bank estimating that this will push 49 million people into extreme poverty, the first increase in global poverty since 1998.

While less affected to date by the immediate emergency, Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to nearly 50 per cent of those falling into poverty. Many parts of Africa will face their first recession in 25 years at a point where Africa’s growth was already too slow to keep pace with the employment needs of the continent’s 29 million young people.

The pandemic will exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities, especially in protracted emergencies and conflictaffected countries. As COVID-19 hits Yemen, only 50 per cent of the country’s health facilities are functional. 24 million Yemenis—80 per cent of the population—are already in need of humanitarian assistance, and nearly a third of the country’s 333 governorates are at risk of famine.

Similarly, cases are on the rise in Afghanistan at a time when the peace process hangs in the balance. A resurgence in violence has led to new waves of displacement, with 71,000 people now displaced by conflict and 40,750 by natural disaster. COVID-19’s wider impact will be felt in terms of hunger, food insecurity and fragility. Meanwhile, one in three Zimbabweans—4.3 million people—already face food shortages due to drought, as well as a lack of water and basic goods.

Many of the pandemic’s unseen impacts will be felt by women. A recent WHO report highlighted that women staff 70 per cent of the global health and social care system, while HALO’s own field reports from Kosovo confirm increases in domestic violence against women due to lockdown. Meanwhile the impact of lockdown also disproportionately affects the world’s 1.6 billion informal economy workers. And as 117 million children in 37 countries risk going without measles vaccinations, 68 per cent of children globally are out of school. That includes 500 million girls across 185 countries who are missing out on education.