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COVID-19 a Global Perspective – 2020 Goalkeepers report

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In past editions of the Goalkeepers Report—almost every time we have opened our mouths or put pen to paper, in fact—we have celebrated decades of historic progress in fighting poverty and disease. But we have to confront the current reality with candor: This progress has now stopped. In this report, we track 18 indicators included in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In recent years, the world has improved on every single one. This year, on the vast majority, we’ve regressed. And so this essay has two goals. First, we analyze the damage the pandemic has done and is still doing—to health, to economies, and to virtually everything else. Second, we argue for a collaborative response.

There is no such thing as a national solution to a global crisis. All countries must work together to end the pandemic and begin rebuilding economies. The longer it takes us to realize that, the longer it will take (and the more it will cost) to get back on our feet.

Global health and development data usually involves a lag. It takes time (anda lot of work) to collect data on how many people have been vaccinated, who has been diagnosed with which diseases, or how people’s income has changed.It takes even more time to standardize the data, fill in gaps and fix errors, validate it, analyze it, and share it.

This means that, with traditional methods, it would be 2021 before the impact of COVID-19 showed up in the data included in the Goalkeepers Report. The point of the report is to track (and promote) progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, and the big thing standing in the way of that progress right now is the pandemic. So we decided not to wait the usual year-plus to try to quantify the impact of this disaster.

Goalkeepers measures progress on nutrition by tracking stunting (low height for age), a manifestation of chronic malnutrition. As the word “chronic” makes clear, stunting does not happen overnight—it compounds over weeks and months. When it comes to COVID, therefore, stunting is a lagging indicator whose impact we may not see for a year or more. The longer families suffer from food insecurity and spotty access to basic health services, the worse COVID’s impact on stunting could eventually be.

If we were to look at other nutrition indicators, we’d see that the pandemic is already doing great harm. Wasting (low weight for height) is a manifestation of acute malnutrition—and
its prevalence is spiking right now. A recent Lancet study found that wasting could account for up to one-quarter of all COVID-related childhood deaths.

We must address wasting now without leaving children vulnerable to stunting later, which means strengthening health, food, and social-protection systems to deliver the care and food that children need in order to avoid malnutrition in the first place.

• COVID-19 – A Global Perspective – Gates Foundation 


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