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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Accelerating the response to COVID-19: what does Africa need?

By Annalisa Primi, Head, Structural Policies and Innovation, OECD Development Centre, and Stephen Karingi, Director, Regional Integration and Trade, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and with Lily Sommer, Wafa Aidi, ECA, Vasiliki Mavroeidi, Manuel Toselli, 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.


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Africa is at high risk. The most externally oriented economies, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria account for 52% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases (32,979 as of April 28th). The continent lacks adequate healthcare systems. Hospital capacity is weak with 0.3 beds per 1,000 people in Senegal and 2.8 in South Africa, versus 6.5 in France and 8.3 in Germany. The continent is highly dependent on imports of medical supplies: 94% come from countries that have been hard hit by the pandemic, many of which are now limiting exports to ensure domestic provision of critical equipment. The pandemic magnifies the continent’s structural weaknesses, which make self-isolation and lockdown measures costly and hard to implement: 60% of the world’s poorest people live in Africa and the majority of the workforce is informal. The digital gap hampers telework and automation and governments are not able to mobilise investments at the scale needed to secure all citizens. African governments have taken important steps already, also building on lessons learnt in previous pandemic outbreaks. But the challenge is unprecedented: a global solidarity deal is needed. Continue reading

COVID-19: Make health systems a global public good

By Milindo Chakrabarti, Professor, O.P. Jindal Global University and Visiting Fellow, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)


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*.



health-systemPandemics are always unpredictable and, unlike natural disasters that are mostly localised, they affect countries across the globe. Within a span of less than five months, millions have been affected by COVID-19 and thousands have perished. It has taken its toll across countries irrespective of their levels of income. To more effectively prevent and fight pandemics, we must shift from a national approach to health services to investing in health as a truly global public good. This will require action on pandemic insurance, on the development of pandemic-related infrastructure, and on intellectual property rights.

COVID-19: a crisis beyond income levels

The World Bank categorizes countries in terms of their per capita income. There are 80 High Income Countries, 60 Upper Middle Income Countries, 47 Lower Middle Income Countries and 31 Low Income Countries. These four categories are often used as a proxy for a country’s overall level of development. Has COVID-19 infection and mortality rates correlated with the level of income? Continue reading

COVID-19 : conséquences pour les migrations internationales et le développement

Par Jason Gagnon, Économiste du 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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(Read this blog in English)

Bien que la pandémie de COVID-19 ne soit pas un problème de migration, elle est perçue et gérée comme tel. Le discours exploitant la peur face à la crise pourrait donner de l’espace aux politiques structurelles anti-migration. Ce qui nuirait aux droits et à la santé des migrants, et à leur impact positif sur le développement : en 2017, environ 258 millions de migrants internationaux ont comblé les pénuries de main-d’œuvre et contribué au transfert de compétences, de biens et de services indispensables dans le monde entier.

Nous avons fait des progrès remarquables pour renforcer la gouvernance des migrations. Mais si les droits des migrants ne sont pas protégés face à la crise du Covid-19 à court et à long terme, les avancées pourraient être réduites, mettant les migrants et leurs familles, ainsi que certains des fondements de notre économie mondiale, en danger. Continue reading

COVID-19 – An unprecedented global threat that deserves unprecedented leadership

By Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, distinguished fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and author


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.


leader-crisisCOVID-19 is the greatest global threat the world has faced since the Second World War. It is not the deadliest or most infectious disease recorded, but the level of globalization and interconnectedness of the world render it particularly destructive. The depth of the global economic crisis is exceptional; not only is it worse than the 2008 global recession, it is exacerbated by its occurrence at a point where there is weakened global collaboration and political posturing over COVID-19 at an international level and in many individual countries. The world’s response to the virus was briefly but perfectly expressed in the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statement, “This is an enemy that we have underestimated from day one and we have paid the price dearly”.

Heroic sacrifices have been made by health personnel and frontline workers across the world, while the wider public, also affected by tragedy and sacrifice, has demonstrated its readiness to follow measures to curb COVID-19. Many local and national governments, despite the initial delay, have shown exceptional leadership in their efforts to avert disaster and to inspire the public and vulnerable members of society. However, the actions, or lack of them, of some leaders have spread confusion and disruption. Continue reading

COVID-19: time for gender inclusive decision-making

By Salma Al-Rashid, Women 20 Engagement Group Sherpa for the G20


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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Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. 30 March 2020. Photo: Shutterstock

Mainstreaming gender equality is an intrinsic part on the road to recovery from COVID-19.

2020 is a pivotal year for public policy, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting at least 183 countries. Countries and multinational institutions are struggling as the pandemic not only tests our healthcare systems but creates chaos in our economies with implications far beyond previous financial crises. There is a danger, illuminated by the absence of any language around gender at the G20 Extraordinary virtual Summit on COVID-19 that the important strides made in the last fifteen years to balance women in policymaking are at risk. The consequences of this would be short-sighted as we start to rebuild economic sectors and labour forces.

In the immediate term, we know that women are a vital part of the healthcare infrastructure that is battling the pandemic head-on. Women comprise almost 7 out of 10 health and social care workers and contribute $3 trillion annually to global health, half in the form of unpaid care work. This includes highly skilled workers – in OECD countries, just under 50 percent of doctors are female, and this proportion has been increasing as the share of female graduates continues to rise – and those in lower-skilled positions. Continue reading

The fast changing geography of COVID-19: The poorest countries will be next and the world needs a tried and tested response protocol now

By Jan Rieländer, Head of Multidimensional Country Reviews, 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.


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Empty street in Bogotá,  Colombia, March 2020. Photo: Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread fast. As of April 15th, cases have been reported in 181 countries and deaths in 150. Just two weeks earlier, at the beginning of the month, death from COVID had only been reported in 128 countries (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Countries with COVID cases and deaths, by income group, as of April 15th, 2020

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The fast global spread is quickly changing the geography of who is affected. Currently, the virus is showing the heaviest impact in the advanced economies of Europe, North America and East Asia, which together account for 80% of confirmed cases and 88% of deaths attributed to COVID-19. Just six weeks ago, on March 1st, China accounted for over 90% of both confirmed infections and deaths, while advanced economies accounted for less than 3% of global COVID deaths at the time. By mid-March, China’s share on both counts had dropped to 50%. By mid-April, China has largely reopened its economy as well as the city of Wuhan where the virus originated, and only accounted for 2.5% of global deaths and 4.1% of global cases (Figure 2).  Continue reading

COVID-19 : Il est temps d’investir dans la santé des plus pauvres du monde

Par Christoph Benn, Directeur, Global Health Diplomacy, Joep Lange Institute


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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(Read this blog in English)

La crise sanitaire sans précédent que représente le Covid-19 pour le monde requiert une réponse mondiale, elle aussi, sans précédent. De nombreux pays riches ont annoncé d’importants plans de sauvetage et de relance pour maintenir leurs économies à flot. Mais alors que la pandémie se déploie en Afrique, en Asie du Sud et en Amérique latine, la communauté mondiale doit maintenant renforcer sa solidarité avec les communautés les plus vulnérables et réfléchir aux instruments les mieux adaptés pour répondre à cette crise globale. Il est désormais temps d’investir dans la santé des personnes les plus pauvres de notre planète à travers des mécanismes mondiaux qui nous protègent tous et auxquels tous les pays contribueraient selon leurs capacités.

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