Coronavirus: Let’s not forget the world’s poorest countries

By Paul Akiwumi, Director of UNCTAD’s Division for Africa and Least Developed Countries


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.
This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).


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Girls washing dishes in Lome, Togo. Photo: Jordan Rowland

The novel coronavirus pandemic has rapidly thrown the world into uncharted territory. As COVID-19 diagnoses rise globally, the World Health Organization has reported more than 7,000 cases in the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs). While these numbers seem small compared with the thousands of cases being reported daily across hotspots like Spain, the United States, and Italy, chances are that this low number of diagnosed cases will not last for long. Of the 41 LDCs reporting cases, 33 countries have now confirmed local transmission. Bangladesh has surpassed 2400 cases, while Afghanistan and Djibouti have reported more than 800 COVID-19 infections. With limited testing available in the LDCs due to already fragile health systems and limited access, especially in rural areas, these numbers are likely to be even higher and will continue to rise. Continue reading

The COVID-19 Scourge: How affected are the Least Developed Countries?

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By Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), and Fareha Raida Islam, Programme Associate, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)


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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Dhaka, Bangladesh – March, 2020:  Lockdown amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Shutterstock

The scourge of COVID-19 continues to devastate life and livelihoods across the world. While the global community assesses the possible impact of this pandemic and commits to take action, it is becoming evident that the consequences will be more pronounced in the weaker economies, and possibly catastrophic in the least developed countries (LDCs) – a group of countries that share multiple structural vulnerabilities. A targeted package of international support measures for LDCs, realigning existing programmes, is urgently needed.

Vulnerabilities of the least developed countries

About a quarter of the United Nations’ members (47 countries) are LDCs, accounting for 12% of world population, against less than 2% of global GDP and less than 1% of global trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). These countries, penalised by geography and history, host about 40% of the world’s poor. Almost all are climate-change affected nations, and a large number are fragile states. Only about 18% of the population in LDCs have access to internet – the vast majority are victims of the digital divide. LDC governments on average spend less than 2% of their country’s GDP on public healthcare. Continue reading