Inequitable Access to COVID-19 Tools is Hindering the Pandemic Response

16 November 2021

A snapshot across 503 facilities in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia

A new snapshot reveals the persistent and glaring inequity in access to lifesaving COVID-19 tools, such as diagnostic tests, treatments (including medical oxygen), and personal protective equipment (PPE), that is hindering the pandemic response in low- and middle-income countries.

This inequity is creating a two-track pandemic; while rich countries with high vaccination rates are largely returning to normal life, low- and middle-income countries continue to suffer high death rates and lockdowns, due to shortages of lifesaving tests, treatments and vaccines. Not only is this morally wrong, but this situation also creates the perfect conditions for new variants to emerge, which threaten any global progress and will continue to prolong the pandemic indefinitely.

The snapshot provides an indicative update of countries’ access to COVID-19 tools through spot checks conducted in 503 facilities in 33 countries across the regions of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) between May and September 2021.

The indicative data is concerning. Less than half of the 503 facilities across Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe could conduct COVID-19 tests, meaning that countries cannot track or contain the spread of the virus, implement test and treat strategies, or detect the emergence of new variants. Medical oxygen is also not accessible everywhere, and many COVID-19 patients have died, and continue to die, for lack of oxygen. The snapshot also highlights the higher risk run by health workers of contracting COVID-19, which is exacerbated by a lack of access to lifesaving PPE.

The Global Fund is a key partner in the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator), the global collaborative partnership turbocharging the global pandemic response. Through our COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM), the Global Fund is the primary source of grant support for all COVID-19 tools except vaccines. Thanks to the generous support of donors, we have awarded over US$4.1 billion since the start of the pandemic to over 100 low- and middle-income countries to fight COVID-19 with diagnostic tests and treatments including medical oxygen, protect front-line workers, and adapt lifesaving HIV, TB and malaria programs.

But C19RM is running out of funds – and the fight against COVID-19 and its devastating impact on HIV, TB and malaria is not over. Without more funding, we cannot support countries to protect front-line health workers, test for COVID-19 to stop the spread and identify new variants, and support patients who are critically and severely ill with treatments including medical oxygen. To end COVID-19, we must ensure equitable access everywhere to the tools to fight the pandemic.