The polarising effects of Covid-19 on Global Health and other key international issues.

Zoe Dean

Vaccination programs began rolling out in December 2020 with the UK giving the first dose on 8th December 2020. A month later 42 countries have initiated vaccine rollouts with more being added to this list since then. A clear and worrying inequality is already pronouncing itself with 36 of these countries who are able to initiate extensive vaccinations being high-income and the rest middle-income countries. Scientists, researchers, development and healthcare professionals across the world are now trying to highlight a myriad of inequities in order to protect lives under threat from neglected health and social issues. Yet the pandemic has also strengthened advocacy for topics such as Mental Health and the Global Debt Crises.

Hidden by the Covid-19 Pandemic – Collateral damage and delayed treatments.

The number of Covid-19 deaths is constantly being updated. There exist multiple trackers, both nationally and globally, which track multiple aspects of the pandemic, from a number of cases and deaths to the gender sensitivity of policies addressing the health crises. The WHO tracks global cases via its Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard, The Financial Times’ Global economic impact tracker is one of many sites that trace the economic impact of the pandemics and the UNDP COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker monitor policies in response to the pandemic via a gender lens.

As readily available as statistics on Covid-19 are, information and tracking data for the world’s second-biggest infectious disease killer is lacking. In 2020 Covid-19 was estimated to have killed 1.8 million people, in the same year Tuberculosis killed an estimated 1.5 million (Devex, 2021). This shows that in general, little is mentioned about the deaths caused by other diseases despite growing concern that low-income countries will suffer more deaths caused by the collateral damage of Covid-19 rather than the virus itself. 

The socioeconomic dimension to the pandemic is also becoming clear within higher-income countries. For example, early diagnoses in lung cancer have been disrupted as Covid-19 has been prioritised. Lung cancers biggest driver is smoking which is behaviour more prevalent in poorer communities. These poorer communities are then hardest hit by the reduced capacity of the healthcare institutions to engage with diagnosis and treatment.

Highlighted by the Pandemic – Mental Health and tackling Global Debt. 

Covid-19 is having a large impact on mental health. The main tool for combating the spread of the virus in many nations has been public isolation. Lockdowns are a challenge to most people’s mental well-being, yet it is particularly challenging for those fighting addictions or who have previously suffered from poor mental health. This Global Health issue has historically only received 1% of global funding, yet it is estimated to affect at least 13% if the world’s population (Global Health Metrics, 2017). However, the effects of policies aimed to control the pandemic have also aided a marked increase in awareness of the issue of Mental Health. Education, acceptance and self-help for mental health issues are gaining momentum online via social media platforms, especially amongst younger people. This is promoting greater societal awareness in many countries and increasing pressure on governments to pay closer attention to this long side-lined issue. Whether this leads to actual investment and is addressed equitably in all countries, remains to be seen.

With the realisation that Covid-19 poses financial challenges to even the most robust economies, there has been a strong argument for cancelling world debt.  Globally governments have injected $11tn into keeping economies afloat which has highlighted the precarious financial position of many countries in debt. Currently, 64 countries are paying more debt servicing than on healthcare (Tippet, B, 2020).

There has been increased advocacy to end developing world debt. To enact policies, such as debt cancellation, will require hard-won consent from key international actors as well as enormous international collaboration. To this end, the process of dealing with a pandemic has been insightful in showing the strengths and weaknesses within the current international system. It has highlighted that political action can be organised in weeks, solutions developed at remarkable speeds and spending quickly applied. As such the argument for radical political action to cancel debt is further strengthened by the collaborative actions that have taken place to fight against the pandemic.

Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic has both highlighted and eclipsed Global Health and International issues. Both the inequalities and opportunities that the pandemic have affected should be studied in order to develop a global growth mindset against any future Global Health emergencies as well as other international issues.


Catherine, C (28th January 2021) Will global health learn from Covid-19 collateral damage? Devex

BBC (3rd January 2021) Global Health: what’s likely to happen in 2021?

Beaumont, H (14th November 2021)

WHO (8th January 2021) WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 8 January 2021

Global Health Metrics (2017) Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, Available at: Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 (

Tippet, B (23rd November 2020) How can we pay off the global coronavirus debts? Tackle the powerful