For now, Latin America has become the epicenter of the disease. Cases in Brazil are surging, in part because President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns and rejected advice from public health experts. Health-care systems in poor regions are collapsing. Cases are also shooting up in Peru and remain high in Chile and Argentina.
Meanwhile, India, which imposed a strict nationwide lockdown March 25, is now lifting it, and cases are spiking. The fight against the virus caused massive unemployment — some 100 million people lost their jobs or left the labor force. Covid-19 wards in Mumbai have been full for three weeks, and patients are being turned away. “It is going to be a mess,” Jayaprakash Muliyil, a leading Indian epidemiologist, told The Post.
Although the number of cases in Africa has been low, they are starting to surge there, too, and many are not well prepared. Africa has carried out 685 tests per million people, far below the 37,000 per million in Italy or 22,000 per million in the United States, meaning many cases may be undetected. Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt have 1,920 intensive care beds among them for more than 400 million people.
The knock-on impact of the pandemic is just as severe as the disease. A United Nations study predicts an increase of between 50 million and 70 million people living in extreme poverty compared with the original estimates for this year, with the pain heavily skewed toward sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The United Nations Development Program says the virus has triggered a “systemic crisis” across all facets of human development, potentially setting back decades of progress in health, education and economic well-being. By mid-April, more than 1.4 billion children ages 5 to 17 in 147 countries (or 86 percent of children worldwide) were out of school.
The pandemic has also dealt a huge setback to vaccination campaigns against measles, diptheria and polio. In a statement, the World Health Organization and others estimated that routine immunization services are being substantially hindered in at least 68 countries and about 80 million children under the age of 1 year old are likely to be affected. Public health experts worry that as nations throw limited resources into fighting the pandemic, there will be less for fighting HIV/AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis. All of this will put extra demands on the WHO, which has been at the front lines of fighting disease in the developing world — and it’s more evidence that President Trump’s decision to abandon the WHO is irresponsible and damaging.