COVID-19 death toll four times higher in lower-income countries than rich ones

Thursday, March 3, 2022

3 million people have died since the Omicron variant emerged, shattering perceptions that the pandemic is over.

The COVID-19 death toll has been four times higher in lower-income countries than in rich ones, according to a new report published today by Oxfam on behalf of the People’s Vaccine Alliance as the world marks two years since the World Health Organisation declared the pandemic. 

While the pandemic has been devastating for rich countries, the world’s poorest countries like Nigeria have been hardest hit with its effects, with women and children bearing a disproportionate burden. 

Lack of testing and inadequate reporting means that very large numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 could go unreported, especially in the poorest countries. 
Modelling using measures of excess deaths estimates that 19.6 million people have died because of COVID-19, over three times the official death toll. Based on this analysis, Oxfam calculated that for every death in a high-income country, an estimated four other people may have died in a low or lower-middle-income country. On a per-capita basis, deaths in low and lower-middle-income countries are 31% higher than in high-income countries.

Oxfam also calculated that three million COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the three months since the Omicron variant emerged. The figure shatters perceptions that Omicron’s milder illness means the pandemic is coming to an end, as the more contagious variant tears through unvaccinated populations. By some estimates, over half of humanity is set to have been infected with COVID-19 by the end of March 2022. While most cases will be mild, the sheer number of cases means that the numbers of deaths remain high.  
The report also outlines that:

•    Every minute, four children around the world have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID. 
•    Women have been 1.4 times more likely to drop out of the labour force than men because of the pandemic.
•    99 percent of humanity is worse off because of COVID-19, 160 million people have been pushed into poverty, and 137 million people have lost their jobs.

However, not everyone has lost out due to the pandemic, with a new billionaire created every 26 hours. Of those new billionaires, 40 are COVID-19 billionaires, having made their billions profiting from vaccines, tests, treatments, and personal protective equipment (PPE). During the pandemic, the world’s 10 richest men have seen their fortunes double, rising at a rate of $1.3 billion a day, or $15,000 dollars a second. 

“While there has been a very significant drop in reported cases in Nigeria in recent times, Nigerians need to remain vigilant to keep the numbers down. 

“The government needs to actively bridge the inequality gap between the rich and the poor by investing more in healthcare, agriculture and education; reviewing its tax policies in favour of the less privileged and more importantly, taking advantage of the COVID-related offers of debt relief to get its current debt service suspended, and negotiate a comprehensive cancellation of its overall debt as soon as possible,” said Oxfam Country Director, Dr. Vincent Ahonsi. 


Notes to editors: 

Download Oxfam's report "Pandemic of Greed".

Contact information: 

Rita Abiodun

Communications Officer

Oxfam in Nigeria | 08089721663

Please support Oxfam's Coronavirus Response Appeal.