Back to the past – One year on COVID-19 could wipe out progress in poverty and disease reduction by 20 years 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021
  • As the world focuses on COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination rates for other deadly diseases significantly drop for first time in 28 years  
  • Number ofthose in extreme poverty increasing for first time in 20 years,withadditional150 million in 2021  
  • 60% increase in those receivingcash or vouchersin World Vision programmes across the globe  

10th March, 2021 - COVID-19could reverse20 years of progress in reducing hunger and improving the health of millions of children across the globe, according to international aid agency, World Vision.    

As the world now focuses on access to the COVID-19 vaccination, social restrictionshave hindered essential health services andmillions of children have not been vaccinated against other diseases.Twenty years of hard-won gains are at risk.More than 5 million children under 5 years of age face the threats of cholera anddiarrhoea. The pandemic could wipe out 20 years of progress in tackling HIV, TB and Malaria, potentially doubling annual death tolls.The WHO estimates that the likelihood of a child born today being fully vaccinated with all the globally recommended vaccines by the time they reach the age of five, is less than 20 per cent.  

“We must not allow the pandemic to continue to rob children of their God-given potential as education is put on hold, health systems are overwhelmed, vaccinations paused, and children left hungry as livelihoods are decimated,” said Andrew Morley, President and CEO of World Vision International.    

The pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession since the 1930s. Extreme poverty has risen for the first time in 22 years and unemployment has increased dramatically.The World Bank predicted that COVID-19 will add as many as 150 million extreme poor in 2021, half of them children.   

“World Vision is deeply concerned that the long-term impacts of COVID-19 could permanently scar the development of a generation of the world's most vulnerable children.There must be no more stolen childhoods, as girls and boys across the world continue to face the devastating aftershocks of COVID-19,” said Morley.  

Since 1990, the number of children dying from preventable causes such as poverty, hunger, and disease has more than halved. Unless the international community prioritisescountriesthatare now at greatest long-term risk from the impacts of COVID-19,World Vision fears thepandemic will leave millions of children at risk of death from famine and disease.  

“The international community must step up to the challenge – and we must unite to bring hope before it is too late,” said Morley.  

The UN recently predicted that235 million people worldwide will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021; an increase of 40 per cent in a year.This means 1 in 33 people worldwide needs help, a significant increase from the 1 in 45 people a year ago, which was already the highest figure in decades. In 2020, the number of people receiving cashand voucher assistancefrom World Vision increased to6.4million;a staggering 60% increase compared to 2019.  

What is even more worrying is that at a time when the world’s poorest need more support than ever to save lives, less funding will be provided.UNCTAD expects foreign direct investment to develop economies will decline by 35% to 45% in 2020and the World Bank predicts that remittance flows, a lifeline for many living in extreme poverty, will shrink by 14% in 2021.  

“A year ago, we launched the largest emergency response in our history.  We call on governments, individuals, and corporations to prioritise children and urgently respond to the devastation this pandemic has already caused,” said Morley.    


Notes to editors:

For further information or to organise an interview, please contact: 

Micah Branaman - Communications Technical Director, Global COVID-19 Response, World Vision -mobile: +1 469-286-5662 | email:

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @WorldVision