Devex CheckUp: Can global health recover from COVID-19 disruptions?

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This week, we’re looking at missed priorities, unfulfilled promises, and lost goals in global health, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt health systems and strain national budgets and donor resources. What can be done to bring them back on the map?

• Diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis has suffered a 12-year setback thanks to the pandemic. Some countries with a high TB burden have devised ways to screen and simultaneously test for COVID-19 and TB to address the decline, although not without challenges, Jenny finds out in this story. Also, check out the top organizations that received TB funding in 2020.

• In 2007, the United Nations endorsed community-based management of acute malnutrition, with the goal of making treatment universal. But more than a decade on, a UNICEF nutrition expert tells Senior Reporter Teresa Welsh "it remains a partially realized promise." Each year, about 1 million children under 5 die from severe acute malnutrition.

• Women and children are hit the hardest due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. The Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents launched a $1.2 billion fundraising campaign in an effort to stop this “secondary health crisis.” Senior Reporter Catherine Cheney has more.

In more positive news, the development of COVID-19 vaccines may help offer some lessons for malaria vaccine development, WHO’s director of the Global Malaria Program Dr. Pedro Alonso says.


Check out the data.

Investing in health security: Which donors are the leaders? And which have dropped the ball? Health security was on the global health agenda post-SARS, but Senior Reporter Lisa Cornish finds it dropped as a focus in the lead-up to the pandemic. A Pro subscriber exclusive.

The COVID-19 update

• There is a growing movement to waive intellectual property rights to support local vaccine production. Global Health Reporter Sara Jerving explores the challenges of manufacturing vaccines sustainably in Africa.

Two large-scale clinical trials looking for COVID-19 treatments are now focusing on the global south. Contributing Reporter Andrew Green explains why that’s important.

• An Africa CDC survey shows that across most of the 15 African countries surveyed, respondents think new COVID-19 vaccines are not as safe as other vaccines, Associate Editor Rumbi Chakamba reports. In DRC, for example, 43% of respondents believed that the COVID-19 vaccine was not safe.

• Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar says new waves of COVID-19 infections happening in a lot of countries globally serve as a reminder that the pandemic is “nowhere near its end.”

From the front lines

This week, we ask Naomi Wanjiru, a TB and HIV/AIDS nurse from Nyandarua Country in Central Kenya: What would make your work during the pandemic easier?

Do you know a health care worker with something to say? Send Amruta a note.

What we’re watching

The road toward partisanship in US Congress. According to comments at a hearing Tuesday, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are working together on legislation about global health security. But a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week indicated there may still be a fair amount of partisan sniping when it comes to COVID-19, WHO, and the Chinese Communist Party.

The hearing — about the U.S. role in vaccine efforts — featured now year-old critiques of WHO complicity in China’s delays in reporting the virus and of former President Donald Trump’s tweets supporting the early Chinese response to the virus.


“If you … look at the dynamics of what’s happening in TB, but also HIV and malaria and other diseases, more people will die of the knock-on impact of COVID-19 on other diseases in 2021 than they did in 2020.”

— Peter Sands, executive director, Global Fund

Read more from Sands and Dag Inge Ulstein, Norway’s minister of international development, in this opinion piece.

What we’re reading

• AstraZeneca revises efficacy data after questions from a U.S. health agency. [CNBC]
• Scientists fear the next pandemic could be … another coronavirus. [NPR]
• India halts exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as officials expect an increase in domestic demand for vaccinations. [BBC]

About the authors

  • Amruta Byatnal

    Amruta Byatnal is an Associate Editor at Devex based in New Delhi. She reports on global health, gender and human rights. Previously, she worked for News Deeply and The Hindu. She is a graduate of Cornell University where she studied international development.
  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.