The UK government has made major reductions in its overseas aid at a time when it had never been needed more desperately. The Covid-19 pandemic will overwhelm health services in many nations in South America, Asia, and Africa over the next few weeks unless world countries act with extreme urgency. The terrible scenes now unfolding in India, where people are dying in hospital corridors, on roads and in their homes, while car parks are being turned into cremation grounds, could be repeated in many other economically fragile nations.
This contrasts with those of well-vaccinated countries such as the UK and the US where lockdowns are being lifted. Now 30.7% recorded deaths from Covid-19 worldwide are occurring in poor and lower-middle income countries – a month ago they accounted for only 9.3% of global deaths. It is not just in India. Covid-19 death rates in countries such as Kenya mortality is up 674% since the end of January, Djibouti 550% and Bangladesh 489%. Health experts in Africa warned that the crisis in India would soon be replicated across their continent.
“We do not have enough healthcare workers, we do not have enough oxygen,” warned John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South America, home to 5.5% of the world’s population, has suffered 32% of all reported Covid deaths.
“What’s happening is a catastrophe,” said Argentina’s health minister, Carla Vizzotti.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, explained, “If we fail to drive down virus transmission globally at this critical moment, our world will become even more inequitable, fragmented and far more dangerous, just at the time we need to come together to address the shared challenges of the 21st century.”
David Nabarro, professor of global health at Imperial College London and an envoy for the World Health Organization on Covid-19, pointed out, “It is really unsatisfactory that a billion doses of vaccine have been given out with a very large majority of these going into the arms of people in wealthy settings. This skew in distribution will directly play through to lives being lost in places where the vaccine is not available.”
Professor Trudie Lang, of Oxford University, criticised the British government. “This means we are going backwards on all the progress that has been made over so many years in many diseases of poverty, such as malaria. “The reduction in Britain’s overseas aid is biting hard. Critically important scientific programmes have been cancelled and this vital research capacity will be very difficult to get back and rebuild.”