COVID-19 pandemic has pushed more than 31 million people worldwide into extreme poverty According to the Annual Goalkeepers report by the Gates Foundation. CEO Mark Suzman tells CNBC-TV18 that Bill and Melinda Gates remain committed as ever and the divorce will not have any impact on the foundation and its philanthropic work.
From alleviating global poverty to financial inclusion, the 18 sustainable development goals set by the United Nations have received a body blow due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Annual Goalkeepers report put forward by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 31 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty, the economic recovery has been uneven, 90 percent of advanced economies are expected to return to the pre-pandemic level for per capita income by next year, but only 1/3 of low and middle income countries are expected to return to pre-COVID levels by next year.
While the job market is largely recovering for men, it is not the same for women who were expected to see 13 million fewer jobs compared to the 2019 levels. This, even as women spend three times as much time doing unpaid care work compared to men.
The loss of education and learning has been disastrous for children across the developing world and that is not all, children are also missing some essential vaccines on account of the pandemic.
To discuss the findings of the Goalkeepers report and more importantly, to address several of these pressing issues, CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan spoke to Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Suzman said, “Part of the reason we started the Goalkeepers report at the Gates Foundation was because so many people in the world didn't understand how much progress was being made. Over a billion people were brought out of poverty, extreme poverty during the 2000s, many of them in India. Childhood vaccination rates halved and this was happening all over the world, in Latin America, in Asia, in Sub Saharan Africa and suddenly COVID has sort of stopped and put that into reverse for so many countries."
"We see those knock on effects, as you say, on immunisation, on per capita income, in education and other areas and so really, the report is a call to action to say, we need to step in, provide the resources to the national global level, to both reverse these shortcomings that we have seen over the last couple of days, and then accelerate progress so that we can still meet those ambitious sustainable development goals by 2030, which include trying to eliminate extreme poverty.”
On vaccination, Suzman said, “One of the most disturbing aspects of the global pandemic, while there was good global intention and we are working with many countries and other partners helped set up the COVAX initiative, well over a year ago, which was intended to try to provide vaccines on an equitable way globally, that has simply not happened."
"We are in a stage where 80 percent of all vaccines have been distributed in high income or upper middle income countries. Only 1 percent of vaccines have been distributed to the lowest income countries, only 1.8 percent of Africans, for example, are vaccinated. This is deeply problematic not just for equity, but actually for tackling the pandemic because the more unvaccinated populations we have the greater risk of new variants that will come up and that might be vaccine resistance.”
“As the IMF has pointed out that we should be maximising that process and to date that has failed. That said we are optimistic that they are there is light at the end of the tunnel, as you say that COVAX is now starting to be able to ramp up our global supply significantly and the projections for the second half of this year and early next year are much more encouraging in terms of being able to provide global provisions including we hope that at some point, there will be a resumption of some of the exports from India. Also we still hope that there will be some new approvals for other vaccines.”
On vaccine production, he said, “We have supported Serum Institute of India, in this case with the two vaccines for Covishield and Covovax. We were always in conversations and had talked to some other Indian manufacturers about where their support might be needed. We have actually been having discussions with the government and other partners about where we may be able to help support and facilitate some future potential mRNA vaccine production in India for the medium and long term."
"Here India is going to be absolutely central as it is to this crisis because it is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume and going forward both in the short and long term, we expect to be engaging deeply with a full range of Indian partners, governmental and private sector partners both on the COVID response and going forward for pandemic preparedness in the future.”
For full interview, watch accompanying video...