Almost two years after the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic is far from over, and its repercussions might last for months and years to come. Photo: Transformer18 / Flickr.

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Beyond the health crisis: Covid-19's impact on human development

After surpassing the threshold of 50% of the world population who have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, some may feel like we are finally putting the pandemic behind us. However, many experts warn that the crisis is far from over - and that its long-term consequences are still very difficult to estimate.

The coronavirus pandemic is a systemic crisis that has had huge repercussions on the health, economic and social aspects of human development, warns United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in a report from 2020. As governments strive to contain the spread of the virus and keep mortality rates low, it is becoming increasingly evident that the crisis extends far beyond the health dimension.

With almost 5 million deaths worldwide, Janusz Kaczorowski, professor at the University of Montreal, argues that this might indeed just be the tip of the iceberg. Data shows that during the first quarter of 2020, economic output levels were equivalent to those last seen during the Great Depression. Moreover, as of September 2021, 117 million of students were still affected by complete school closures and educational institutions were only fully open to 35% of the total student population.

- We know that the longer schools stay closed, the more dramatic and potentially irreversible the impact on children's well-being and learning, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized, warned Stefania giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.

Going even further, it is noticeable that the crisis has magnified pre-existing inequities, increased the gap between developed and developing countries, aggravated gender-based violence, and led to devastating consequences for lives and livelihoods across the world. As stated in the UNDP report: "The pandemic was superimposed on unresolved tensions between people and technology, between people and the planet, between the haves and the have-nots".

It is clear that the pandemic has triggered a human development crisis and as governments start formulating their recovery plans, it is crucial to highlight the need for a multi-dimensional approach  that does not solely focus on the economic dimension, but takes into account the social and health dimensions as well. Many experts, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), have highlighted this and also stressed the necessity of a ”green recovery”. That is, a recovery strategy plan that also addresses issues such as public health, environmental degradation and gender inequality. 

However, our knowledge of the effects of this crisis is still very theoretical and only time will determine the real long-term consequences and their impact within various social groups. In Kaczorowski's words:

- Many of the consequences will not only reverberate for months and years to come, but will also have unequal and profound effects on different societies and specific subgroups within societies.

This text was written by Lund Magazine Group. The group is independent from FUF: s Utvecklingsmagasinet.

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