The omicron variant has raised logistics costs and is a stark reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over, said David Malpass, president of the World Bank.
According to him, new variants of the virus can put even highly vaccinated countries under pressure and threaten to wreak havoc on those with low vaccination rates, which are the poorest and most vulnerable of all.
“Supply bottlenecks have hit developing countries hard; these countries are usually the last in the line of global supply, surpassed by countries with greater financial resources and greater orders,” Malpass said in a World Bank report released Tuesday.
Sub-capacity ports, pandemic-related delays in ordering new ships, and containers stranded in the “wrong” ports have increased shipping costs and supply restrictions to unprecedented levels.
Meanwhile, volatility in commodity prices and extreme weather events triggered by climate change are compounding the risks of food insecurity, placing an additional burden on health and nutrition.
Progress in vaccination is key to restoring mobility and overcoming supply chain disruptions.
For most of 2021, the main obstacle was limited access to vaccine doses, with low-income countries suffering the most.
In early 2022, vaccine supply is increasing sharply, but new variants and bottlenecks in vaccine deployment remain major obstacles to global logistics, leaving health uncertainty to persist into the future. To smooth rising global inequality, the World Bank report calls for a concerted effort to mobilize external resources and accelerate debt relief efforts.
The most vulnerable
The recent $ 93 billion replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA) -the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries- is a key milestone in this regard.
However, more progress is needed in implementing the G20 Common Framework for debt restructuring of low-income countries under pressure.
In 2022 alone, about $ 35 billion in bilateral and private debt service payments will be due on public and publicly guaranteed debt from IDA client countries.
Given that burden, vulnerable countries will find it increasingly difficult to support recovery or direct resources to health, education, social protection and climate.