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COVID-19 Could Set UK International Development Work Back 30 Years

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations has set ambitious goals for sustainable development by 2030, including eliminating poverty and hunger, and achieving universal health care. But COVID-19 threatens the health and prosperity of millions and could derail these goals. You can join us in taking action on this and related issues here.

Thirty years of international development could be undone by the COVID-19 pandemic, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the United Kingdom’s international development secretary, said on Wednesday.

Trevelyan made this statement to Members of Parliament at an inquiry into the effectiveness of UK aid, as reported by the Guardian.

"We have before us a health crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and an economic crisis which threaten to undo 30 years of international development work," she said.

"The reality is that the humanitarian picture is bleak right now," she added. "The threat of famines, exacerbated by the worst locust plague for 70 years, weak health care system allowing the spread of the disease, and economic disruptions hitting the world’s poorest and threatening a global recession and a much longer and harder road back to recovery."

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The COVID-19 pandemic has primarily affected wealthy countries, but low- and middle-income countries are highly vulnerable to a pandemic.

The pandemic could push millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people into poverty, causing the first increase in poverty since 1990 and setting back progress on eliminating poverty by a decade or more in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report from the United Nations University World Institute for Economics Development Research.

Oxfam has also warned that half a billion people could be pushed into poverty by this crisis.

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The pandemic could cause millions of deaths in developing countries, where people often lack access to adequate health care, as well as clean water and sanitation, and living conditions often make social distancing impossible, according to Oxfam.

The UN has set a goal to eliminate poverty by 2030, because doing so "is an act of justice and the key to unlocking an enormous human potential."

In the face of the pandemic, the UN has launched a $2 billion humanitarian aid fund to protect the development gains of the past few decades and set the world on the path toward sustainable recovery.