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COVID-19 Coronavirus

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In late December 2019, people in Wuhan, China began to get sick with a previously unknown pneumonia, marking the beginning of a new infectious disease, later identified as a new type of coronavirus and named SARS-CoV-2. The disease the virus causes was named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30, 2020, and a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

As of June 2023, this profile is not regularly updated.

(Photo credit: U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Amouris Coss)

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Key facts
  • From December 2019 to May 25, 2023, there have been nearly 700 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 7 million deaths worldwide.
  • Cases have been reported in 229 countries and territories. Only Turkmenistan has never reported a single case.
  • Since nearly the beginning of the pandemic (Spring 2020), the United States has led the world in number of cases and deaths. It has about 62 million more cases than the next closest country (India).
  • The creation and popularization of home testing kits have nullified most tracking systems. The most effective means of tracking the presence of COVID-19 is testing the amount of the virus in wastewater, as most home tests are not reported.
  • WHO lifted the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for COVID-19 on May 5, 2023. The US ended the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency on May 11, 2023.
  • The creation of vaccines to fight the virus marked a significant turning point in the rate of deaths and infections.
  • The first vaccine was given on Dec. 8, 2020.
  • As of May 25, 2023, 70% of the world has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. This drops significantly for people in low-income countries where only 30% of people have received a first dose.
  • More than 13.39 billion vaccine doses have been administered to fight the pandemic.

Both the WHO and the U.S. have ended their public health emergencies related to COVID-19. Yet, the virus continues to spread across the world, despite the implementation of vaccines. The vaccine disparity continues to highlight the inequities around the globe.

In the U.S. and other Global North countries, the intentional disinformation/misinformation campaigns will continue to leave many people unvaccinated and at-risk. The virus is continually mutating. There is a risk with each new mutation that a strain will be created that is vaccine resistant. All of these factors create a climate and case for ongoing philanthropic support.

Unrestricted access to timely, accurate and appropriate information

Many people around the world do not have accurate information about COVID-19 – specifically vaccine access. People have the right to unrestricted access to accurate and timely information so that they can make informed decisions about their health.

Even in the U.S., there is significant misinformation about the virus and vaccines. This rhetoric has been spurred by conspiracy theorists and people with a vested interest in distributing false stories. The Public Health Collaborative’s Misinformation Alerts are a great way to stay informed about the truth.

Funders can explore opportunities to combat misinformation by supporting public health campaigns aimed at changing policy and/or delivering accurate and accessible information.

The Joint Research Centre at the European Commission says research shows that, “information campaigns should present epidemiological evidence (the current status of the pandemic and the likelihood of future waves) through trusted channels and in a clear and understandable manner. Furthermore, policymakers should acknowledge the differences in beliefs and perceptions between sub-groups of the population (for example, as explained in the brief, between vaccinated and unvaccinated), and tailor their messages accordingly. Doing so helps challenge inaccurate perceptions created by targeted mis- and disinformation on such topics.”

Vaccine hesitancy/equitable access to vaccine

There are significant concerns about the equitable distribution of vaccines both in the U.S. and around the world.

On an international level, this means continuing to support sufficient production and distribution of vaccines supporting the medical infrastructure and building vaccine awareness. Given that vaccines have rolled out globally, it is important that vaccine confidence is built in communities and vaccine hesitancy is addressed to increase uptake.

Given that vaccine rates are so low in many countries, programs designed to prevent and limit transmission should continue to be prioritized, particularly in fragile countries and countries with weak health systems and infrastructure along with high caseloads and death rates.

As the focus of vaccine support moves to lower- and middle-income countries, supporting a strong health system will be critically important. This includes ensuring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), clean syringes and injection supplies, training for personnel and staffing needs.

On the domestic level the focus is on education and supporting targeted distribution. This education includes providing accurate vaccine implementation information to encourage hesitant populations to get the vaccine and support immunity for the greater good.

Additionally, they should support organizations advocating for and providing equitable access to populations who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, such as Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people.

The uptake on the bivalent booster is very low, despite the added protection it provides for Omicron variants. Targeted outreach will be important for improving this.

There have been additional vaccine implications. In the U.S., decreases in childhood vaccination rates, which occurred during lockdowns at the height of COVID-19, have returned to near-normal levels. However, not all children who missed vaccines during that period have caught up. So, while weekly rates of vaccinations have been restored, there is a decrease in the number of children who are up to date on their vaccines.

Internationally, there is a much different story. A new report from UNICEF found: “New data indicates declining confidence in childhood vaccines of up to 44 percentage points in some countries during the COVID-19 pandemic … 67 million children missed out on one or more vaccinations over three years due to service disruption caused by strained health systems and diversion of scarce resources, conflict and fragility, and decreased confidence.”

Research from UNICEF and the WHO in July 2022, called this “the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years.” They attributed the decline to “many factors including an increased number of children living in conflict and fragile settings where immunization access is often challenging, increased misinformation and COVID-19 related issues such as service and supply chain disruptions, resource diversion to response efforts, and containment measures that limited immunization service access and availability.”

Income and basic needs

The World Economic Forum was held in January 2023. Their 2023 global risk report indicated that the cost of living crisis should be considered the biggest challenge in the coming two years. Much of this has arisen because of increased poverty, supply chain issues, employment challenges and rising inflation.

Before the pandemic, about 34 million Americans, 10.5% of the population, lived in poverty. While this had been decreasing for the six years prior to 2020, (it was 14.8% in 2014), 2020 saw the largest annual increase since the 1960s. Eight million people fell into poverty in 2020 increasing the rate to 11.4% in December 2020. The 2021 rate was 11.6%.

The rates of poverty are even more extreme internationally, both before and after the pandemic started. In 2019, 8.2% of the world’s population lived on less than $1.90 a day — then considered the threshold for extreme poverty. In September 2022, the World Bank changed this measurement to $2.15/day.

It was already unlikely that the world would achieve its sustainable development goal of eliminating poverty by 2030, despite the great progress to-date. COVID-19 reversed the decline and erased over four years of progress (see chart below). It is now anticipated that in 2030, nearly 7% of the world’s population (about 574 million people) will be living in poverty.

According to the World Bank, “The world’s poorest people bore the steepest costs of the pandemic. Their income losses were twice as high as the world’s richest, and global inequality rose for the first time in decades. The poorest also faced large setbacks in health and education which, if left unaddressed by policy action, will have lasting consequences for their lifetime income prospects.”

Source: United Nations Stats
Food security

There are several factors affecting the food chain supply including conflicts, crises and natural hazards and severe weather. Inflation and the disruption of supply chains lead to families making difficult financial decisions between basic needs.

Consumer prices rose 7.1% from November 2021 to November 2022, with food costs up 10.6%, prompting the 2023 World Economic Forum to name the cost of living crisis the biggest short-term global risk.

Within the U.S., Feeding America says, “Demand for help remains far above pre-pandemic levels, even as food banks face continued supply chain disruptions, higher food and transportation costs and lower food donations.”

In 2022, Feeding America’s research showed that 10.4% of the population was food insecure in 2021. For older adults, their 2023 research study “The State of Senior Hunger in America” found that 7.1% of older adults were food insecure, or about 1 in 14 of the population aged 60 and older.

Feeding America shared the following statistics:

  • “According to the USDA, more than 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the United States are food insecure.
  • The pandemic has increased food insecurity among families with children and communities of color, who already faced hunger at much higher rates before the pandemic.
  • Every community in the country is home to families who face hunger. But rural communities are especially hard hit by hunger.
  • Many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and visit their local food banks and other food programs for extra support.
  • Hunger in African AmericanLatino, and  Native American communities is higher because of systemic racial injustice. To achieve a hunger-free America, we must address the root causes of hunger and structural and systemic inequities.”
Mental health/psycho-social support/physical health
Serious mental health needs have emerged throughout the pandemic. During a CDP webinar on support for mental health, bereavement and grief Huong Diep, a consulting psychologist with the Headington Institute said, “There are no safety zones anymore. All of us are simultaneously experiencing and grieving during this disaster, therefore our emotional bandwidths are stressed and limited.”
An analysis of four Pew Research Center surveys found that at least four-in-ten U.S. adults have experienced high levels of psychological distress at some point during the pandemic. In the first year of COVID-19, the World Health Organization found the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%.

Funders can support organizations providing equitable access to mental health/physical health services for those of all ages. Additional support is needed for survivors of trauma from the pandemic and the layered traumas of other life circumstances exacerbated by the pandemic.

Two ongoing areas that need support are services that help people find and access mental health and physical health resources, known as navigation services, and support for organizations providing mental health support and services to frontline healthcare workers to mitigate burnout.

An American Psychological Association study on stress found that, “Inflation was reported as a source of stress for the vast majority of adults (83%), and the majority of all adults also said the economy (69%) and money (66%) are a significant source of stress. Of those who said money is a source of stress, most said that stress is about having enough money to pay for basic needs.”

For youth, “numerous studies observed sharp increases in rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicide attempts.” Dr Nina Heinrichs, professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Bremen, said that it is likely that 20-25% of children will suffer from mental health challenges due to the pandemic, an increase from 10-20% prior to 2020.

Intimate partner violence and child abuse

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), which the United Nations called the “shadow pandemic” because of its severity.

At the beginning of the crisis when there were extensive lockdowns, both IPV and child abuse increased because people were required to spend more time with their abusers. This led them to be increasingly isolated, often in over-cramped conditions and lockdowns also increased stress for all parties. Stranger and partner assault increased in public places as well because they were more deserted than usual. Financial woes also increased the stress levels within families.

Funders can help victims of IPV and child abuse by funding organizations (including schools and health facilities) that conduct screening and supporting mental health care, counseling and shelters that support those who have been hurt.

Source: United Nations
Human trafficking

Human trafficking also increased during the pandemic. Increased poverty and a lack of employment and other livelihood options all contributed to this.

Young girls were reported to be sold by their families because of a lack of financial resources, while young women were trafficked across borders. This includes forced labor, especially child labor, which can bring income for families. It also includes forced marriage – including younger-than-usual girls.

Lack of access to welfare and social protection services during the pandemic also played a role, as these are usually preventative resources. Migrant workers who ended up stuck in another country may have developed irregular status after losing their employment due to the pandemic and turned to other options for income.

UN Women has identified several ways to combat trafficking that funders can support:

  • “Develop and/or update National Strategies and National Action Plans for combatting trafficking in human beings that address the emerging COVID-19 dynamics, including trafficking in cyberspace, especially of women and children;
  • Address root causes of trafficking in human beings, especially of women and children;
  • Engage local communities to combat trafficking; include healthcare and educational protocols on identification and referral of victims of trafficking;
  • Address identification and prevention for at-risk groups after the pandemic.
  • Strengthen the proactive identification of victims of trafficking … strengthen identification among at-risk groups such as ethnic and racial minorities and migrant workers
  • Make services accessible to victims and survivors of trafficking during and after the COVID-19 pandemic … ensure services are also provided online, over the phone and are free.
  • Address vulnerability of children to trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and respond to the increase in online grooming and exploitation by developing age-appropriate online prevention tools.
  • Support and build the capacity of both governmental and non-governmental frontline stakeholders by providing adequate and sustained funding and support for anti-trafficking frontline organizations and provide additional resourcing for shelters to ensure their continued operationality and availability.
  • Strengthen human trafficking prevention efforts related to the pandemic through continued awareness raising and prevention campaigns, with a particular focus on increased risks for trafficking with the purpose of sexual and labor exploitation, and supporting employers through training on recruitment and selection processes that prevent trafficking.
  • Implement measures to reduce trafficking in human beings after the pandemic, such as ensuring safe and effective pathways to legal labor migration, strengthening and resourcing labor inspectorates, implementing penalties for unethical recruitment and labor exploitation, and ensuring transparency in supply chains.
  • Invest in measures to address prevention in particular harmful social norms that perpetuate trafficking in women and girls.”

COVID-19 has dramatically increased learning poverty, which “is defined as the percentage of 10-year-old children who cannot read and understand a simple story, by 2030. New data jointly produced with the UIS show that 53 percent of 10-year-old children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story. In the poorest countries, the number is often close to 80 percent.”

In low- and middle-income countries, ten new young people (out of 100) entered learning poverty because of the pandemic, leaving only 32/100 not in learning poverty.

This rolled back gains under the Sustainable Development Goals for Education.  According to the World Bank, “Due to learning losses and increases in dropout rates, this generation of students stand to lose an estimated $10 trillion in earnings, or almost 10 percent of global GDP, and countries will be driven even further off-track to achieving their Learning Poverty goals – potentially increasing Learning Poverty levels to 63 percent.”

At least 147 million children missed half their schooling between 2020 and 2022. According to UNICEF, when schools reopened many students did not return to the classroom (e.g., a 43% decrease in Liberia in December 2020, 3x as many students out of school in South Africa from March 2020 to July 2021 and 1 in 10 students missing in Uganda when schools reopened after two years).

This is not limited to schools internationally; similar problems have arisen domestically. A survey of 800 schools in 2022 found that:

  • “The pandemic years have taken a dramatic toll on the nation’s public schools … affecting staffing, students’ behavior, attendance, nutrition, and mental health.
  • 80% of public schools reported ‘stunted behavioral and socioemotional development’ in their students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 56% increase in ‘classroom disruptions from student misconduct’
  • 49% increase in ‘rowdiness outside of the classroom’
  • 55% increase in ‘student tardiness’
  • Chronic teacher and student absenteeism has increased.
  • There is a greater need for mental health services among students and staff … 70% of public schools reported that ‘the percentage of students who have sought mental health services increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic’ and that 34% of public school students seeking out mental health services more than others were ‘economically disadvantaged students.’
  • Nearly 40% of the schools that operate USDA school and breakfast meal programs, ‘reported challenges obtaining enough food, beverages, and/or meal service supplies.’”

CDP has a COVID-19 Response Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by this virus. As of January 2023, we have distributed more than 200 grants totaling $42,489,478 to more than 170 organizations working in the U.S. and abroad, including grants to fund projects in collaboration with other CDP funds.

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Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a donation to the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund, please contact development.

(Photo: Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) distributes hygiene kits in the Beka’a Valley in Lebanon to assist refugees with personal protection and household sanitization. Source: SAMS)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Donor recommendations

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email Regine A. Webster.

Note: If you are an individual within the U.S. affected by this disaster, we encourage you to call your local 211 to see what resources are available in your community or look at the 2-1-1 COVID-19 Resources Page.

More ways to help

While we may be in year four of the virus, it is far from over. But the state of the crisis has changed. Funders need to think about how to embed COVID-19, and future pandemic planning, into all of the work that they do.

Plan your giving thoughtfully in response to COVID-19. You do not need to deviate from your normal focus. For example, if you are an education funder, what are organizations you support doing about learning loss? If you normally focus on food security, this is an area that has multiplied because of the pandemic.

The WHO and the CDC COVID-19 websites are recommended sources of timely, reliable information. CDP works to stay updated on who is responding and is happy to discuss needs with responding funders.

CDP hosted a webinar “COVID-19 year four: Implications for philanthropy” that addressed the past, present and future of COVID-19 response and funding both domestically and globally. A summary is also available on Giving Compass.

You may want to allocate your giving in a few ways:

  1. Give to Funds: Not everyone is an expert or has time to invest in researching the many organizations that are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. By donating to a fund, you can pool your donation with other donors to have a more impact. Let the grants management experts conduct the research and due diligence to find the best organizations. In addition to our own COVID-19 Response Fund, CDP is aware of many large international and domestic funds responding on a broad level. Funders should also consider specialized intermediary funds that are tackling key issues. Intermediary funds can allow donors to provide a grant that will be divided into multiple, smaller grants to support grassroots, frontline organizing or service delivery within organizations that may not have the capacity to receive a large grant.
  2. Fund local NGOs: As with all disasters, this epidemic started and will end locally. Think about the local NGOs that you already support in the areas of housing/homelessness, healthcare, nutrition/food support, mental health, domestic violence, care for seniors etc. There has been an increased need for their services during this outbreak, which will continue for years, if not decades, to come. They need flexible, unrestricted funds that can provide additional dollars to deal with this epidemic. Support operating funds and capacity building when possible. This is also critical on an international level to develop or support the ongoing capacity of those organizations that will remain after international agencies leave.
  3. Expand existing giving: Be innovative in supporting your grantees. Reach out to your existing grantees to see how the crisis has affected them. Consider issuing additional funding to help them meet the latest needs of their clients. Or change their reporting requirements, deadlines and expectations to allow them to redirect funds.

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving.

Related resources

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Pandemics and Infectious Diseases

Pandemics and Infectious Diseases

A pandemic is the sustained transmission of an infectious disease across a wide area of one country or across international borders. Pandemics may be either naturally occurring or the result of human intervention through genetic engineering or biological warfare.