Why quality assurance infrastructure matters to fight COVID-19 in developing countries?

By Karl-Christian Göthner, Consultant, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt PTB, Germany


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Quality-Assurance-Infrastructure-COVID-19The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that health systems in many countries – developed and developing – were not prepared for such a crisis. Since 2005, several organisations have warned about the consequences of pandemics, issuing recommendations to prepare for critical health situations (WHO 2005, World Economic Forum 2006). However, in many countries few of these recommendations were followed. In September 2019, before the outbreak in China, a study by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security stated that in many countries a lot remained to be done to improve preparedness for pandemics. When the COVID-19 pandemic appeared, most countries had to improvise, with the threat that it would overwhelm their health systems, depending on the timing and extent of their measures and the state of their national health systems. National trade restrictions, interrupting supply chains and impeding medical and protective equipment exports, have also exacerbated the situation. Continue reading

Mental health and COVID-19 in developing countries

By Anna D. Bartuska, Programme Coordinator, Community Psychiatry PRIDE, Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Luana Marques, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Clinical Psychologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Director, Community Psychiatry PRIDE


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


covid-19-mental-healthPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a mental health crisis in many areas of the world. In 2017, Our World in Data reported that 970.81 million people had a mental health or substance use disorder. People living with mental health conditions have a 20 year reduction in life expectancy—two times greater than the estimated years lost from cigarette smoking. Despite the overwhelming global need for mental health services, up to 85% of individuals with mental health conditions in developing countries do not receive care due to lack of resources and investments. Unmet mental health needs bear a significant economic burden. The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development reports that unaddressed mental health conditions will cost the global economy US$16 trillion between 2010 and 2030. Continue reading

COVID-19 has threatened medical equipment supply chains: it is in developing countries’ interest to rebuild them better

By Piergiuseppe Fortunato, Economic Affairs Officer, UNCTAD and Annalisa Primi, Head, Structural Policies and Innovation Unit, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


supply-chains-medicalSupply chain breakdowns and the revival of export restrictions in strategic sectors underline the importance of domestic and regional manufacturing capabilities.

Trade can be instrumental for development. But increasing concentration in global markets and repeated threats and rounds of tariff hikes are putting the global trading system, and the institutions around which it was built, under severe stress. The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated these tensions, precipitating the World Trade Organization (WTO) into a stalemate and leading many economies to simultaneously enact temporary export bans and restrictions on critical goods. All at a time when these goods are more needed than ever before, amidst a pandemic which has put vast parts of the planet under lockdown and limited economic activities in an unprecedented way.

Global annual growth this year might fall between 6% and 7.6% according to the OECD’s latest projections and economies in all regions of the world will shrink. Developing economies will likely be hit the hardest due to their role in global trade. Most developing economies specialise in supplying commodities. Their exports have been severely hit by the COVID-19 crisis, as demand for natural resources has plummeted, prices have collapsed, and traditional exports such as fresh, perishable agricultural products have been blocked due to logistical shortages. Continue reading

Fighting COVID-19 in Africa’s informal settlements

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Boris Golovnev/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the world’s richest cities but poses an even greater threat to cities in the developing world. There are now more than 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa, in all 54 countries, with South Africa and Egypt the worst affected.

One of the most pressing concerns for Africa is that over half the population (excluding in North Africa) live in overcrowded informal settlements. In these areas where several people have to share one badly ventilated room, diseases such as COVID-19 spread fast and it is impossible to practice physical distancing whether in homes or outside. Continue reading

Haitian Families and Loss of Remittances During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Toni Cela, Senior Research Associate of the Migration for Development and Equality (MIDEQ) hub & Co-ordinator of the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), and Louis Herns Marcelin, Co-Director of the MIDEQ project; Professor at the University of Miami; & Chancellor of INURED


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: Rafal Cichawa/Shutterstock

Migration has always featured prominently in Haiti’s history. At times forced, as in the case of sociopolitical repression and the aftermath of disasters, induced to fulfil labour and workforce needs in the Caribbean and in other periods voluntary as in the circulatory movement recorded in the Caribbean, South and North America. Over the past decades, migration in Haiti has evolved from a survival strategy for individual migrants and their families to now buttressing the local economy through the transfer of remittances. This reality was made evident during the 2010 earthquake rebuilding effort when the Haitian diaspora identified itself as Haiti’s “single largest donor” citing “the magnitude of its remittances to the Haitian Republic and how those contributions totalling [USD] $2 billion dollars annually allot[ed] for 30% of the GNP .”  In comparison, public revenues, excluding grants, represent 13% of GDP and are projected to fall to 10% in 2020.

Remittance transfers to Haiti have continued to grow over the past decade, the lion’s share of funds originating in countries throughout the Americas, particularly the United States, where the majority of Haitians have settled. Yet, the global economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic poses a serious threat to the global remittance economy. For Haiti, reduction in remittances will further weaken an already feeble economy while negatively impacting the livelihood and health of families and communities. Continue reading

Repurposing Africa’s manufacturing: A means to address medical equipment shortages and spur industrialisation

 Rajkumar Mayank Singh, Tony Blair Institute (TBI) Strategic Advisor to the Government of Rwanda, Antoine Huss, Regional Lead, Francophone West Africa, TBI, Jonathan Said, Head of Inclusive Economic Growth, Africa, TBI, and Kekeli Ahiable, West Africa Analyst, TBI


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


PPE production in a repurposed factory in Ghana
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) production in a repurposed factory in Ghana. Photo courtesy of the authors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that around 22% of Africa’s population will be infected by COVID-19 within a year, possibly resulting in 150,000 deaths. In a recent forecast by Kearney, even in a suppressed pandemic progression scenario, demand for medical gowns, gloves, masks, swabs, and hand sanitizers will surge by ~1,600 percent from the baseline. In such circumstances, weak health systems and a lack of essential medical supplies leave countries in Africa particularly vulnerable.

Governments around the world have been panic buying essential medical supplies, while the World Trade Organization recently reported eighty countries that have introduced export prohibitions restricting the global supply of medical equipment. In 2018, as depicted in figure 1, industrialised countries like the U.S.A. and Germany had the largest market share in global export of ventilators and testing kits, while China led exports of face masks globally. With African countries importing most of their medical needs, panic buying and supply chain disruptions will significantly undermine the ability of African countries – and hence the world – to defeat COVID-19. Continue reading

COVID-19 crisis: Why we must prioritise mental health of the world’s displaced

By Shaifali Sandhya, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Care Family Consultation


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Deprsession-shutterstock_332939864The modern world is in an unprecedented situation. In the last decade, the global population of the forcibly displaced has swelled to 70.8 million; with the advent of COVID-19, its numbers are expected to soar as a staggering number of refugee and asylum-seeker families find themselves further displaced by fear of disease, food insecurity and by the pressures of collapsing national economies. In many countries displaced communities’ access to labour markets is limited to the informal market, and equally vulnerable will be nations’ shadow workers – garbage workers, prostitutes, domestic help, garment makers, and gig workers. Faced with an economic crisis of cataclysmic proportions, economists and political leaders will be tempted to focus solely on the physical and economic facets of the current crisis.  But if we want to make it through this crisis, that won’t be enough.  In addition to financial and physical wellbeing we will need to recognize and address mental health around the world and at every level of society, especially of its displaced communities. We are at best, unprepared for the worst; for both OECD and developing countries, we need to provide tailored mental health treatment to those who need it in the communities they live in. Continue reading

The unreal dichotomy in COVID-19 mortality between high-income and developing countries

By Philip Schellekens, Senior Economic Advisor to the Office of the CEO – International Finance Corporation, and Diego Sourrouille, Financial Sector Analyst, Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice – World Bank


This blog * is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Photo: Brookings.edu – Reuetrs \ Marko Djurica

Here’s a striking statistic: Low-income and lower-middle income countries (LICs and LMICs) account for almost half of the global population but they make up only 2 percent of the global death toll attributed to COVID-19. We think this difference is unreal.

Views about the severity of the pandemic have evolved a lot since its outbreak in Wuhan. First, we thought it was just China. But in a matter of weeks, 3.5 million people in 210 countries and territories had become infected. A local epidemic became a full-scale pandemic, entire countries were locked down, and now the world faces the prospect of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Will we soon have to adjust our views again? Will the burden of COVID-19 mortality soon travel in a different direction? Will new epicenters emerge outside of the high-income world? Is this just the beginning for the developing world? To begin addressing these questions, it is useful to first analyze the reported data and get a better feel for the contrasts and inequalities. Continue reading

How microeconomics can help devise evidence-based policy responses to COVID-19

By Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics at Yale University, and Faculty director of the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE), and Jaya Wen, Postdoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


covid-19-microeconomics-policyThe new coronavirus has already exacted a profound toll all over the world. A notable feature of COVID-19’s course is that early outbreaks occurred primarily in middle- and high-income countries, so evidence and policy guidance have been tailored for these contexts. Policymakers will need to reevaluate these approaches as the disease progresses to poor countries. Even if the ultimate objective remains protecting the quality and extent of human life everywhere, effective intermediate goals and policy approaches are context-dependent, modulated by factors like health care capacity, poverty levels, government capacity, economic informality, and the prevalence of high-density, low-infrastructure living conditions. Continue reading

Face au COVID-19, les leçons d’Ebola et du secteur minier en Guinée

Par Nava Touré, Conseiller principal auprès du Ministre des Mines et de la Géologie, République de Guinée, et Ruya Perincek, Analyste des politiques, Ressources naturelles pour le développement, Centre de développement de l’OCDE


Ce blog fait partie d’une série sur la lutte contre le COVID-19 dans les pays en voie de développement. Visitez la page dédiée de l’OCDE pour accéder aux données, analyses et recommandations de l’OCDE sur les impacts sanitaires, économiques, financiers et sociétaux de COVID-19 dans le monde.


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Photo : Shutterstock

Alors que les pays à travers le monde, connaissent des réponses diversifiées à la pandémie de COVID-19 et anticipent des conséquences économiques sévères, la Guinée s’appuie essentiellement sur l’organisation qui a fait ses preuves pendant l’épidémie d’Ébola de 2014-2015 : des structures institutionnelles pour répondre aux crises sanitaires, en collaboration avec les partenaires internationaux et le secteur minier qui joue un rôle important dans l’économie nationale.  Cette expérience dans la réponse aux crises sanitaires et les mécanismes établis dans les contrats et conventions minières pour le contrôle des revenus tirés par l’État pourraient mettre le pays dans une meilleure position par rapport à d’autres pays en développement pour la riposte au COVID-19 et à la crise économique.

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