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Microsoft principle founder Bill Gates participates in a discussion at the Economic Club of Washington, in Washington, DC on June 24, 2019. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has stopped, and in many cases reversed, progress towards achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, according to the fourth annual Goalkeepers Report, published Monday from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

“The first three years, we were able to report the steady and gradual progress towards those goals,” Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and co-chair of the foundation, told reporters. “Every single one of the goals was moving in the right direction,” he added.
“Of course, this year is different. It’s unique. The Covid-19 pandemic not only stopped progress, but it pushed us backwards, and that varied quite a bit by different areas,” he said. 

The 2020 Goalkeepers report analyzes the damage that the pandemic has done and is doing to health, economies “and virtually everything else,” and argues the world must work together to overcome it. 

Setback in vaccinations: Vaccinations reached over 80% of the world’s children and prevented more than 2 million deaths in 2019. Because of Covid-19, vaccine coverage in 2020 is dropping to levels last seen in the 1990s, the report says. 

“In other words, we’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks,” it says.

Coronavirus vaccines won’t end the pandemic unless they are equitably allocated. A model from Northeastern University, which is included in the report, shows that 61% of deaths could be averted if a vaccine was distributed to all countries proportional to population. If vaccines go to high income countries first, deaths will be cut by only 33%.

Plunged into poverty: The pandemic has pushed almost 37 million people below the extreme poverty line in 2020, with the extreme poverty rate going up by 7% in just a few months, according to the report. Some 68 million people have fallen below the poverty line in lower-middle-income countries, the report says.

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