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Tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic of Inequality to Build a Green, Inclusive & Resilient recovery

Author: Angelik Nehme Published: 22 April 2021


An event organised by the London School of Economics, LSE, on 29th March 2021.

Chair: Minouche Shafik, Director of LSE. Prior to this, she was Deputy of the Bank of England.

Speaker: David R. Malpass, the 13th President of the World Bank Group




COVID-19: Repercussions and Road to Recovery


Historically speaking, when an infectious disease outbreak occurs, the human cost is accompanied by a high economic cost as well, whether the disease is of high or low mortality rates. The recent COVID-19 outburst is of no difference. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are numerous and severe. Although some of its effects are directly seen by the high number of the fatalities, the pandemic has caused other effects which remain rather implicit and indirect.

“This is the pandemic of inequality” David Malpass.

According to the World Bank, the pandemic has pushed around 250 million people into dire hunger and over 100 million people into indigence, all while infecting over 120 million individuals and killing over 2.5 million around the world. In the webinar “Tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic of Inequality to Build a Green, Inclusive, & Resilient Recovery”, participants addressed the underlying results of COVID-19, and proposed some solutions. The World Bank Group President, David Malpass, converses with the Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, Minouche Shafik, and suggests methods that accelerate the recovery and sheds light on how the consequences of the pandemic disproportionately affected the most unguarded and defenceless, particularly women and children. David Malpass partially attributes the catastrophic outcomes on the vulnerable to violence, incautious debt, and climate change. He places emphasis on how necessary the recovery decisions are for shaping the future ahead. In addition, he reassures individuals affected by the “pandemic of inequality”, as he puts it, that the World Bank has implemented policies that are “GRID”: green, resilient, and inclusive development. Some “GRID” policies include helping vulnerable areas reduce their reliance on oil imports, and enhancing the infrastructure in poorer countries. Currently, many pressing matters require attention, and very few solutions are provided. This prompted David Malpass to tell viewers that rapid headway is essential in terms of addressing the lack of nutrition, health, climate action, proper taxation, and other urgent problems facing the developing countries.


The pandemic and Education

The President of the World Bank Group ensured viewers that he recognized the unprecedented effect of the pandemic on the education of many children across the globe. UNESCO reported that the education of over 80% of children has been affected by the closure of schools, regardless of whether schools closed locally or nationally. This will have damaging outcomes on children living in poverty, as closing schools exacerbates inequality and has a damaging impact on both health and social aspects of children’s lives. In addition, inconsistent and unhealthy dietary lifestyles have adverse impacts on the mental and physical health of children. Hence, the closure of schools is not solely damaging on an intellectual and social level, but also on a health level. Schools tend to be a vital source of food for underprivileged kids, so closing them means that many children lose their food source.


Gender violence during the Pandemic

David Malpass also underlined that women suffered disproportionately because of COVID-19. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, was one of those to warn about the intensified gender-based violence crimes that resulted from intense health restrictions after COVID-19. In addition, she noted that many women and young girls have lost their capacity to exercise body autonomy upon tight mobility restrictions. UNFPA foreshadows that the number of unwanted pregnancies might reach 7 million, and that the number of deaths related to unsafe abortions will skyrocket as a consequence of this pandemic. This issue is not particular to a certain country, although the vulnerable areas will suffer the most from it. The number of domestic abuse cases have shot up, as many women can no longer seek comfort and refuge from their abuser outside of their homes.


Debts and Climate change

David Malpass sheds light on how debt became even more of a burden after the pandemic. The poor suffered disproportionately, as dollar debts became harder to repay after the devaluation of some currencies. In addition, more expenses have been incurred on governments in order to finance the healthcare industry to combat COVID-19, and to provide assistance for the unemployed. The increased government expenses and intense pressure on currencies have made debt a noteworthy problem. Climate-related troubles need to be urgently tackled, and the World Bank is putting in the effort to reduce carbon emissions. As a result of COVID-19, green initiatives have become of inferior importance when compared to the health crises the pandemic caused. Climate issues and COVID-19 are both matters that need everyone’s collective efforts, because their repercussions know no borders.

The World Bank’s support during COVID-19

Furthermore, David Malpass showcases the different solutions that The World Bank provides to tackle COVID-19. It has helped provide over 50 countries with vaccines, strived to restructure debt to make it less hefty on the poorer, encouraged debt transparency, and set a 35% climate investment target. The World Bank meshed climate and development through fiscal policy and sustainable growth especially in developing countries, and many other strategies as well. However, the WB still requires the assistance of the private sector when it comes to restructuring debt.


COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected everyone, and it has been an ongoing difficult situation for over a year now. However, the severity of its impact is felt differently and unequally among people. This pandemic has pushed poorer individuals further into poverty, and disproportionately hurt vulnerable women and children in developing areas. The World Bank and The United Nations, alongside many other institutions, have been trying to alleviate some of the impact of COVID-19, but efforts need to be increased, and other institutions must aid the recovery process in order to ensure a smooth transition back into life as we knew it before the pandemic.

Angelik Nehme graduated with an MSc in Development Economics & Policy and a BSc in Economics with a track in Political Science and International Affairs. She wishes to put her passion for writing and editing to good use, by reporting about international issues.


Bibliography:

  1. Cousins, Sophie. "COVID-19 has “devastating” effect on women and girls." The Lancet 396, no. 10247 (2020): 301-302.

  2. Malpass, David. 2021. "Building A Green, Resilient, And Inclusive Recovery: Speech By World Bank Group President David Malpass". World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/speech/2021/03/29/building-a-green-resilient-and-inclusive-recovery-speech-by-world-bank-group-president-david-malpass.

  3. Oldekop, Johan A., Rory Horner, David Hulme, Roshan Adhikari, Bina Agarwal, Matthew Alford, Oliver Bakewell et al. "COVID-19 and the case for global development." World Development 134 (2020): 105044.

  4. Van Lancker, Wim, and Zachary Parolin. "COVID-19, school closures, and child poverty: a social crisis in the making." The Lancet Public Health 5, no. 5 (2020): e243-e244.

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