Devex Newswire: How the world reached 3 million COVID-19 deaths

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In January, projections never expected the death toll to rise so high. What happened?

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When the global death toll reached 2 million COVID-19 deaths four months ago, projections anticipated that vaccine availability would mean the death toll never passed 3 million. But it has, as Lisa Cornish reports — and projections now expect it to hit 4 million by mid-May.

• WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that COVID-19 infections are actually accelerating, with new weekly cases nearly doubling in two months.

• The U.S., which has administered more total vaccine doses than any other nation, still saw the highest number of excess deaths between January and April, pushing it past 566,000. Vaccine inequity, with low- and middle-income countries last in line for doses, is thought to be exacerbating the current wave.

• A total of 10 countries — almost all of them small island developing states — remain COVID-19-free, though one of the 10, Vanuatu, just issued a travel ban and cautionary quarantines after a fisherman’s corpse that washed up on shore tested positive for the virus.

Read: How did we reach 3 million COVID deaths? 


President Joe Biden’s announcement on Friday that the U.S. would keep the refugee admissions cap at its historic low of 15,000 — set by former President Donald Trump — faced harsh blowback. So harsh that Biden’s team quickly walked back the initial decision and vowed to increase the number of refugee admissions by May.

There are currently more than 100,000 refugees waiting for resettlement, Teresa Welsh reports.


The U.K. government is reassuring its development partners they will not have grants or contracts withheld due to voicing concerns about foreign aid budget cuts, Will Worley reports. Will previously revealed that aid groups were self-censoring out of fear that speaking out against the cuts might be held against them in procurement decisions.

“Delivery partners will continue to be chosen on the basis of who is best able to deliver UK aid programmes, including through the fair and transparent procurement process set out in the Public Procurement Regulations,” FCDO minister Nigel Adams wrote in response to a parliamentary question on Thursday.


“There is no reason why that mother will wait for two hours. She can just decide to [leave] and might decide not to come back. Or she might say to her neighbors: ‘Oh, when you go to the health facility, you will be waiting for three hours.’”

— Eleonore Antoinette Ba-Nguz, regional immunization coordinator for East and Southern Africa, UNICEF

Global health experts are worried that the COVID-19 vaccination rollout could overburden health workers and detract from routine childhood immunization programs, Sara Jerving reports.


According to its CEO, the $1 billion AMR Action Fund to advance antibiotic development is a “stopgap,” not a solution to the weak pipeline for new drugs, Jenny Lei Ravelo reports.

• The World Health Organization’s latest “Antibacterial Pipeline Report,” published Thursday, shows only 43 antibiotics in clinical development.

• The pipeline for new antibiotics pales in comparison to other research areas, such as cancer, for which thousands of treatments are currently in clinical development.

• To get a drug through clinical trials and have it registered already costs over $250 million, not including the cost of capital and the cost of failure.

Read: Antibiotics pipeline ‘insufficient’ to tackle antimicrobial resistance

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When the foundation Big Win Philanthropy joined forces with Ethiopia’s then-Minister of Health Tedros to support the government’s effort to reduce infant mortality, it had some different ideas about the best approach to take. The experience taught Jamie Cooper, the foundation’s president, a lot about how to work in partnership with governments and not undermine them.

Catherine Cheney reports from the Skoll World Forum, on how funders can best work with governments to scale innovation.

Event: How can angel investors play a role in achieving the SDGs? Tune in to LinkedIn this morning at 9 a.m. ET (3 p.m. CET) for the conversation.


Brazil will require $10 billion a year in foreign aid to reach its 2030 goal of zero emissions, according to the country's environment minister. [BBC]

The U.S. and China have agreed to work together to tackle the "serious and urgent" issue of climate change, following two days of high-level meetings in Shanghai. [CNN]

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is set to testify before a U.S. congressional committee on Thursday, the same day the country hosts its Earth Day summit. [Politico]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.