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New report reveals how the failures of the international community to combat COVID-19 has led to dire consequences for millions of the most vulnerable

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  • A new report published by the International Rescue Committee details how the absence of global leadership, insufficient funding, and lack of coordination between countries has further exacerbated challenges for people within conflict settings.
  • Compared to $8 trillion in domestic stimulus financing, only $48 billion has been raised specific to settings already impacted by conflict and crisis.
  • Insufficient data in conflict settings means that the full spread and infection rate of COVID-19 is still unknown.

As the United Nations General Assembly comes to a close, a new report published by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and written by The Economist Intelligence Unit, finds that the lack of a coordinated global approach to COVID-19 has had dire consequences for millions of the most vulnerable people around the world. Drawing comparisons with previous global crises, the report evaluates fundamental shortcomings of the multilateral system during COVID-19, such as the absence of global leadership, insufficient funding, and lack of coordination between countries specific to information-sharing, public health messaging, supply chain management, and humanitarian aid access.

Main findings of the report include:

  • The knock-on effects of COVID-19 are dire for the most vulnerable - containment measures and the resulting economic fallout have led to critical knock-on effects for those already impacted by crises. Within the first few months of lockdown, 15 million more known cases of gender-based violence were reported. An additional 70 to 100 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty, and ten of the world’s most fragile countries could face famine this year or in the first quarter of 2021.
  • Countries continue to go it alone on COVID-19 - despite international mechanisms in place to navigate global health emergencies and address their economic, social, and political repercussions, heightened geo-political tensions and rivalries have led many countries to combat the virus and its aftermath in isolation, extending the depth and length of the outbreak for all. Political instability across G20 countries is higher now than during the outset of the global financial crisis or Ebola.
  • Financing has been slow and inadequate - while countries have allocated an almost unprecedented $8 trillion in domestic economic stimulus packages, only $48 billion has been raised for settings already impacted by conflict and crisis. To date, about 27% of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded, compared to 64% during the Ebola crisis over a similar time period.
  • Insufficient data means we do not yet know the full extent of the crisis - while countries such as Syria and Yemen are reporting low cases of COVID-19, comprehensive data and testing is unavailable within these contexts. Without these two critical elements within every country, we cannot achieve the level of monitoring needed to adequately understand the scale of nor effectively manage the pandemic.

“The international community has both a moral obligation and strategic imperative to support the most vulnerable. A commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ is the only way to manage challenges like COVID-19,” said David Miliband, president and CEO, International Rescue Committee. “COVID-19 is a cause of immense pain and suffering, but also a symptom of an under-powered system for global cooperation. It is time to call out the lack of global political leadership, and warn of its consequences. Borders are no protection from pandemics, economic recession, or climate change. The solutions to global problems lie in a renewed and reformed multilateral system, not a weaker one.”

Mitigating the short- and long- term effects of COVID-19 will require collective, coordinated action between government leaders, policy makers, and humanitarian actors. And as scientists move quickly to develop a vaccine, it is imperative that international cooperation extends to its distribution, with vulnerable populations among the first in line.

The full report can be found here along with a set of actionable recommendations for both the short- and long-term

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.