The great vaccine divide: a look ahead to 2021

Testing temperature
Health checks in India. People in the global South may have to wait a year or more before COVID-19 immunisation programmes can be rolled out. Copyright: Gwydion M. Williams, (CC BY 2.0). This image has been cropped.

Speed read

  • People in the global South may have to wait more than a year for their COVID-19 jab
  • Diseases of poverty sidelined
  • Mega-dams, water poverty in focus

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As SciDev.Net celebrates 20 years of reporting about the impact of science on people in low- and middle-income countries, the need for our work is greater than ever.

Even though COVID-19 vaccination programmes are underway in some of the world’s most developed countries, those in the global South may have to wait a year or more before immunisation programmes can be rolled out.

The pandemic has cast a pall over the already faint progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, as major international donors cut back on development aid. Our reporters and editors in over 80 countries across the developing world will be tasked with highlighting the impact of these cuts on their communities and their research institutions.

We will look in particular at international efforts to contain diseases of poverty, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, which have been sidelined as COVID-19 monopolised attention and funding.

As the coronavirus pandemic bit, education systems and universities scrambled to adapt to online learning. This drew attention to the sharp digital divide within and between countries, and local solutions and technological innovations will be a major focus in 2021.

For our teams in Sub-Saharan Africa, innovation in the face of adversity is central to the region’s progress. Our editors will examine the force of design and creativity for sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Local innovation may prove crucial to food security efforts as climatic disturbances alter the onset and end of seasons, disrupting farmers and breeders, and mitigation becomes increasingly urgent.

In Asia and Pacific, water management and international relations will remain prominent, as hydropower projects currently under consideration could result in tension or conflict between neighbours.

In the Middle East and North Africa, climate change and water sustainability will similarly lead the headlines with ongoing desalination, groundwater and hydropower projects, while mega-dams, such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Turkey’s Ilisu Dam are expected to affect downstream countries.

And mining, deforestation and biodiversity loss will remain a concern for communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

There is no doubt that 2021 will be as challenging as 2020 was — if not more so. Our international team of editors and writers will be there at every step, giving a voice to those who fall on the wrong side of the great global vaccine divide.