This week we mark the deaths of over one million people globally due to COVID-19—lives irrevocably lost and families forever shattered.
This heartbreaking number does not mark the end of this pandemic, nor can it explain the pain and suffering COVID-19 has brought to people and communities around the world.
We, the undersigned 36 organizations, are disappointed and frustrated that the U.S. Congress and the Administration have been unwilling to agree on critically needed emergency funding to support the international fight against COVID-19. As the administration’s own experts have stated, we cannot defeat COVID-19 without addressing it both at home and abroad. While we are grateful for the initial funding to prevent and respond to the pandemic, and the House’s most recent efforts in the updated Heroes Act, it is not enough. All U.S. foreign assistance devoted to COVID-19 has been spent, and immediate, life-threatening health, economic, and social needs continue to rise.
The number of people who die from COVID-19 will only increase. The secondary impacts of COVID-19 are affecting millions more in a set of “mutually exacerbating catastrophes” that lower-income countries have limited options for mitigating.
Data shows that because of COVID-19, extreme poverty has gone up 7%—ending 20 years of progress.
As of today, nearly 1.2 billion children live in poverty—a 15% increase since the beginning of the pandemic. Hundreds of millions of girls are out of school and may never return as they are at high risk for child marriage and early pregnancy. Women across the globe are facing disruptions in critical healthcare services and increased rates of gender-based violence. And the number of people living in acute food insecurity around the world could rise by 270 million by year’s end—an 82% increase—with impacts expected to persist for years to come. Under these conditions, authoritarian leaders around the world are trampling on the human rights of the most marginalized communities, amplifying existing inequalities while using public health as a guise.
The impact of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come, particularly by the most vulnerable. The vast majority of the 79 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced (1% of the global population) come from or reside in low-income countries where COVID-19 infection rates are growing fastest.
Investments made now in life-saving interventions and addressing the secondary impacts of COVID-19 will help ensure that years of progress are not lost. The United States has led globally for decades—that leadership is critically needed now.
We appreciate the action of Congress and the administration to pass a continuing resolution allowing the government to continue its vital work. However, much more needs to be done to fight COVID-19 at home and abroad. The longer we wait to combat this pandemic effectively overseas, more people will get sick, more people will die, and stopping the pandemic will get increasingly expensive. The time to act is now.