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21 September 2020

Data analysis: How the poorest countries are losing out on Covid-19 relief funds

New Statesman analysis suggests some countries with a higher GDP per capita have been allocated more international funding to fight the virus than poorer nations. 

By Nicu Calcea

There is now almost no place in the world untouched by the spread of Covid-19. The global death toll is approaching one million and inequality is rising across the world. International organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank committed at least $48bn in support to more than 100 nations from 10 June, according to the Centre for Disaster Protection. But a New Statesman analysis suggests that among those countries, the richer ones are receiving more money.

The figures mostly cover low- and middle-income countries, although some small higher-income island states have also made the cut, and the graph below plots the amount of money per capita that the various nations received versus their GDP per capita. The trend line indicates that countries with a higher GDP per capita are being provided with more coronavirus funding. This is especially the case in Africa, which is where most recipients of the funds are found.

David Miliband, the CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said that the New Statesman’s data “provides yet another worrying indication that the international community urgently needs to get its act together if we are to mount a robust and truly global response to this crisis”. He added that the poorest countries require “unprecedented global assistance” to handle both the health crisis and its economic and political fallout.



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Of the total $48bn committed, the IMF has pledged around $23.3bn, followed by $13.1bn committed by the World Bank, $6.8bn by the Asian Development Bank, $2.3bn by the Inter-American Development Bank and $1.5bn by the African Development Bank.

Around $13.3bn was allocated to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an additional $9.6bn going to Latin America and the Caribbean and $8.3bn to South Asia.

[See also: Postcards from Planet Covid]

Yet, of the ten nations that received the most aid per capita, nine are small island countries, many of which are classed as high-income economies by the World Bank. The Bahamas received $182.4m in coronavirus funding for a population of around 393,000, putting its per capita funding at $464. Other island nations also received more money per person than most, including the Seychelles ($389/capita), Saint Lucia ($274), Barbados ($230) and Grenada ($199). Some countries in eastern Europe are also among those that received the most money per capita, such as Macedonia ($139), Georgia ($139) and Bosnia and Herzegovina ($121). On the other end of the scale, Zambia, Kazakhstan, Cameroon, Tanzania and Brazil have all received less than 20 cents per person.




Countries with higher life expectancies and lower poverty rates are also receiving more funding to help fight the pandemic.

“The process for allocating coronavirus assistance is not well coordinated and it is not based on where the greatest needs are,” Jonathan Said, of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change think tank, told the New Statesman.

“Money being made available, for instance to Africa, is only around $20bn compared to an ask by African ministers of finance of $100bn and a global call by the UN for $2.5tn [with Africa’s proportion likely to be at least $250bn of this]. As a result, many countries are seeing a spike in their debt levels,” Said added.

Even the tens of billions of dollars in emergency coronavirus relief offered so far appears not to be targeted at the countries that need it most. As global virus cases pass 30 million and the pandemic continues to surge, more assistance for the world’s poorest states may well be required in the coming months – with more rigorous procedures to determine where exactly it should go.

With additional reporting by Ido Vock.

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