Trade In Medical Supplies Rise By 50%
Trade in COVID-19 medical supplies such as personal protective equipment, disinfectants, diagnostic kits, oxygen respirators and other related hospital equipment has risen by 50 per cent since April.
A new study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showed that increase in such trade primarily benefited wealthier nations and the Middle and low-income countries like Nigeria were largely priced out from access to COVID-19 supplies.
The new Global Trade Update report stated that exports of COVID-19 medical supplies from China, the European Union and the United States rose from about $25bn to $45bn per month between January and May 2020.
Findings showed that since the outset of the pandemic, each resident of high-income countries had benefited on average from an additional $10 per month of imports of COVID-19 related products, compared with just $1 for people living in middle-income countries and a mere $0.10 for those in low-income countries.
According to the report, this means that per capita imports of medical goods essential to mitigate the pandemic have been about 100 times higher for wealthy countries than for poor nations.
“While it should be expected that the increase of per capita imports of COVID-19 products would be larger for wealthier countries, the sheer difference is staggering,” the report said.
UNCTAD warned that if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, the access divide between residents in wealthy and poor countries could be even more drastic.
It noted that while some low-income countries had the capacity to locally manufacture some protective equipment, this might not be the case for vaccines, which required stronger manufacturing and logistics capacities.
The report therefore called on governments, the private sector and philanthropic sources to continue mobilising additional funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries.
The UN agency called for support for financial mechanisms, such as the global COVAX initiative, to provide safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries.
The UNCTAD found that global trade recorded a five per cent drop in the third quarter of 2020 compared with the same period last year.