United Nations, May 20 (efe-epa).- The coronavirus pandemic this year could result in the first reversal in the Human Development Index, an indicator prepared by the United Nations since 1990 to measure the global progress on education, healthcare and living standards.
Up to now, no crisis in the last 30 years has caused the HDI to backtrack on the world level, but that rising trend will clearly reverse in 2020, according to a report presented Wednesday by the UN Development Program.
Among other things, the UNDP expected that progress in life expectancy will be halted, with Covid-19 so far having caused more than 300,000 direct deaths and resulting in thousands of children dying “indirectly” and from preventable causes over the coming months.
“The estimates we have on indirect effects of this crisis tell us that between 250,000 and more than a million children under age 5 could die. Why? Because they are not receiving the attention they need,” Heriberto Tapia, a senior researcher for the UNDP and one of the report’s authors, told EFE.
The closing of schools is another of the factors weighing on development progress, given that despite efforts to continue education “outside the classroom” and at a distance, many students do not have access to the Internet – where online classes are provided – above all in countries with fewer resources.
According to UNDP calculations, about 60 percent of the world’s children in elementary school are not receiving education right now, a level not seen since the 1980s.
To all of this must be added a significant economic recession, with a fall of 4 percent in the global per capita GDP.
“It’s a crisis that it hitting us on different fronts and so this time, for the first time since the concept was created for the world as a whole, we’re seeing an unprecedented drop,” Tapia said.
He also emphasized the rapid advance of the “multisystemic crisis” and, in addition, the significant uncertainty that lies ahead, given that it is “reasonable to suppose that the problems are going to continue” at a minimum through the second half of the year.
The response, Tapia emphasized, is even more complicated than in earlier shocks, for example economic crises for which there were well-established recipes, including aid packages to stimulate the economy.
“In this case, that doesn’t necessarily work, because we can’t stimulate the economy if, at the same time, we’re asking people to remain at home for their health. There are additional restrictions in this crisis that make it especially harmful for human development,” he said.
Although the report does not offer a specific analysis by region, Tapia said that Latin America is being very hard hit by the crisis, with a “very significant recession” under way and countries like Brazil experiencing a very large number of coronavirus cases.
In addition, in the education sector, the sharp inequality in Latin America must be noted, with some students who have been able to continue with their classes and others who have no access to virtual classrooms at all.
According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, 4.69 million confirmed coronavirus cases have been detected globally so far and 315,131 people have died from the Covid-19 pneumonia the virus sometimes causes.