The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump irresponsibly abandons the WHO while the pandemic surges in less developed nations

A government health worker shows a covid-19 test at the Roli Madeira riverside community in the southwest of Marajo Island, in the state of Para, Brazil, on Monday. (Tarso Sarraf/AFP/Getty Images)

THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic is surging into the less developed parts of the world, nations with few intensive care beds, scarce personal protective equipment, little or no testing capability, dense living conditions and weak governance. The prospects for health care are grim, as are the possible collateral effects: schools disrupted, routine immunizations postponed, hunger and extreme poverty spreading.

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.

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

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.

Read more:

The Post’s View: China gutted Hong Kong’s autonomy. Trump’s reaction failed on every count.

Max Boot: The WHO has been more effective at fighting the coronavirus than Trump has. No wonder he hates it.

Dana Milbank: A spiraling nation cries out for steady leadership. Trump offers empty threats.

Carl Bildt: The post-American world is now on full display

The Post’s View: China agreed to a global WHO review. Where was Trump?

Coronavirus: What you need to know

End of the public health emergency: The Biden administration ended the public health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic on May 11, just days after WHO said it would no longer classify the coronavirus pandemic as a public health emergency. Here’s what the end of the covid public health emergency means for you.

Tracking covid cases, deaths: Covid-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States last year with covid deaths dropping 47 percent between 2021 and 2022. See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world.

The latest on coronavirus boosters: The FDA cleared the way for people who are at least 65 or immune-compromised to receive a second updated booster shot for the coronavirus. Here’s who should get the second covid booster and when.

New covid variant: A new coronavirus subvariant, XBB. 1.16, has been designated as a “variant under monitoring” by the World Health Organization. The latest omicron offshoot is particularly prevalent in India. Here’s what you need to know about Arcturus.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

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