debts soared, including to China, and the country, whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise, pared back planned climate projects, according to research by the World Resources Institute.

The authors proposed what they called a climate-health-debt swap, where bilateral creditors, namely China, would forgive some of the debt in exchange for climate and health care investments. (China has said nothing publicly about the idea of debt swaps.)

sinking under huge debts, including secret loans that the government had not disclosed, when, in 2019, came back-to-back cyclones. They killed 1,000 people and left physical damages costing more than $870 million. Mozambique took on more loans to cope. Then came the pandemic. The I.M.F. says the country is in debt distress.

Six countries on the continent are in debt distress, and many more have seen their credit ratings downgraded by private ratings agencies. In March, finance ministers from across Africa said that many of their countries had spent a sizable chunk of their budgets already to deal with extreme weather events like droughts and floods, and some countries were spending a tenth of their budgets on climate adaptation efforts. “Our fiscal buffers are now truly depleted,” they wrote.

In developing countries, the share of government revenues that go into paying foreign debts nearly tripled to 17.4 percent between 2011 and 2020, an analysis by Eurodad, a debt relief advocacy group found.

Research suggests that climate risks have already made it more expensive for developing countries to borrow money. The problem is projected to get worse. A recent paper found climate change will raise the cost of borrowing for many more countries as early as 2030 unless efforts are made to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

View Source

A K-Shaped Recovery, This Time on a Global Scale

WASHINGTON — The global economy is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic faster than previously expected, largely thanks to the strength of the United States. But the International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that an uneven rollout of vaccines posed a threat to the recovery, as the fortunes of rich and poor countries diverge.

The global dynamic echoes the “K-shaped” recoveries that are playing out worldwide. While many wealthy nations are poised for a major economic expansion this year, other nations’ struggles could reverse decades of progress in fighting poverty. Top international economic officials warned this week that this divergence, which is being amplified by sluggish deployment of vaccines in developing countries, is a threat to stability and long-term growth.

“Economic fortunes within countries and across countries are diverging dangerously,” Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the I.M.F., said at a panel discussion on Tuesday during the annual spring meetings of the fund and the World Bank.

This week, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen emphasized that point, saying in a speech that the inability of low- and middle-income countries to invest in robust inoculation programs could result in “a deeper and longer-lasting crisis, with mounting problems of indebtedness, more entrenched poverty and growing inequality.”

upgrading its global growth forecast for the year thanks to vaccinations of hundreds of millions of people, efforts that are expected to help fuel a sharp economic rebound. It now expects the global economy to expand by 6 percent this year, up from its previous projection of 5.5 percent, after a contraction of 3.3 percent in 2020.

The wealthiest countries are leading the way out of the crisis, particularly the United States, whose economy is now projected to expand by 6.4 percent in 2021. The euro area is expected to expand by 4.4 percent and Japan is forecast to expand by 3.3 percent, according to the I.M.F.

Among emerging market and developing economies, China and India are expected to drive growth. China’s economy is projected to expand by 8.4 percent, offering its own significant boost to overall global growth, and India’s is expected to expand by 12.5 percent.

But within advanced economies, low-skilled workers have been hit the hardest and those who lost jobs could find it difficult to replace them. And low-income countries are facing bigger losses in economic output than advanced economies, reversing gains in poverty reduction and risking long-lasting pandemic-era scars.

Emerging market economies in many cases have fewer resources for fiscal stimulus, vaccine investments and labor force retraining — factors that put them at risk of falling behind and getting stuck as the world starts its rebound.

Researchers at the I.M.F. pointed out in a recent blog post that it was important that rates on U.S. debt are rising because of a strengthening economic outlook, one that will benefit many economies by stoking demand for their exports. Still, “countries that export less to the United States yet rely more on external borrowing could feel financial market stress.”

Most U.S. officials have focused on how stronger domestic growth could actually help the rest of the world as American consumers buy foreign goods and services. “This year the U.S. looks like it’s going to be a locomotive for the global economy,” Richard H. Clarida, the vice chair of the Fed, said during a recent speech.

Ms. Yellen made a similar argument on Tuesday during a panel discussion at the I.M.F., at which she urged countries not to let up on fiscal support.

“Stronger growth in the U.S. is going to spill over positively to the entire global outlook and we are going to be careful to learn the lessons of the financial crisis, which is ‘don’t withdraw support too quickly,’” she said.

There are risks that spillovers could work the other way — slower vaccination progress abroad could come to weigh on American and global improvement. While roughly 500 doses of the vaccine have been administered per 1,000 people in the United States, based on New York Times vaccination data, that number is about 1 per 1,000 in Mali and Afghanistan.

Economist Intelligence Unit.

“There’s a race right now between these variants of concern and vaccines,” she said during a webcast event Tuesday. She urged “global cooperation and attention” to how disparities in vaccine distribution affect inequality and economic recoveries.

The I.M.F. agrees. Vitor Gaspar, the fund’s director of fiscal affairs, said that advanced economies would continue to be at risk even if the virus were raging in developing countries that are not major economic powers, noting that the virus cannot be eradicated anywhere until it is eradicated everywhere. For that reason, he said, investing in vaccinations is critical.

“Global vaccination is probably the global public investment with the highest return ever considered,” Mr. Gaspar said in an interview. “Vaccination policy is economic policy.”

While global policy bodies are warning about diverging growth and public health outcomes, some Wall Street economists have taken a more optimistic tone.

“We think market participants underestimate the likely pace of improvement in both the public health situation and economic activity in the remainder of 2021,” Jan Hatzius at Goldman Sachs wrote in an April 5 research note.

Vaccinations are high or progressing in Canada, Australia, Britain and the euro area. In emerging markets, Mr. Hatzius wrote, Goldman economists expect 60 to 70 percent of the population to have “at least some immunity” by the end of the year when counting prior coronavirus infection and vaccine proliferation.

“The laggards are China and other Asian countries, although this is mainly because Asia has been so successful in virus control,” he wrote.

How fast global recoveries proceed could be critical to the policy outlook, both in government support spending and in central bank monetary help.

From the Fed to the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, monetary authorities have employed a mix of rock-bottom rates, huge bond purchases and other emergency settings to try to cushion the pandemic’s fallout.

Organizing bodies have echoed Ms. Yellen’s comment: They argue that it’s important to see the recovery through, rather than pulling back on economic help early.

Global policymakers “generally view the risks to financial stability associated with early withdrawal of support measures as currently greater than those associated with a late withdrawal,” Randal K. Quarles, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair for supervision and head of the global Financial Stability Board, said in a letter released Tuesday.

The I.M.F. said on Tuesday that it was keeping a close eye on interest rates in the United States, which could pose financial risks if the Fed raises them unexpectedly. It also urged countries to maintain targeted fiscal support — and to be ready to provide more if future waves of the virus emerge.

“For all countries, we’re not out of the woods, and the pandemic is not over,” said Gita Gopinath, the I.M.F.’s chief economist.

View Source

Vaccine Passports, Covid’s Next Political Flash Point

The next major flash point over coronavirus response has already provoked cries of tyranny and discrimination in Britain, protests in Denmark, digital disinformation in the United States and geopolitical skirmishing within the European Union.

The subject of debate: vaccine passports — government-issued cards or smartphone badges stating that the bearer has been inoculated against the coronavirus.

The idea is to allow families to reunite, economies to restart and hundreds of millions of people who have received a shot to return to a degree of normalcy, all without spreading the virus. Some versions of the documentation might permit bearers to travel internationally. Others would allow entry to vaccinated-only spaces like gyms, concert venues and restaurants.

While such passports are still hypothetical in most places, Israel became the first to roll out its own last week, capitalizing on its high vaccination rate. Several European countries are considering following. President Biden has asked federal agencies to explore options. And some airlines and tourism-reliant industries and destinations expect to require them.

wrote in Scientific American. But with vaccines distributed unequally by race, class and nationality, “it is not obvious that they are ethical.”

Still, there are clear upsides: grandparents reuniting with out-of-town grandchildren; sports, concerts and other events partly but safely returning; resumption of international travel and some tourism; businesses reopened without putting workers at undue risk.

All of that is why, Drs. Hassoun and Herlitz wrote, vaccine documents “may be inevitable.”

Some countries require proof of vaccination — for example, against yellow fever — to enter. So do schools and day-care facilities in many American states.

higher rates. In Western countries, those communities tend to be white and well-off.

This evokes an uncomfortable image: professional-class white people disproportionately allowed into shops, baseball games and restaurants, with people of color and members of the working classes disproportionately kept out. If workplaces require proof of vaccination, it could tilt employment as well.

“If vaccines become a passport to doing different things, we’re going to see the communities that have been already hardest hit by Covid being left behind,” said Nicole A. Errett, a University of Washington public health expert.

said that they hope to set a policy this summer for accepting vaccine passports.

urging governments to wait for international standards on the passports before opening up travel, lest uneven standards lead to unsafe practices or geopolitical gamesmanship.

“A challenge since the beginning has been getting countries to do what’s best for the world instead of what’s best for people inside of their borders,” Dr. Errett said.

Witness the maneuvering within the European Union, whose 27 countries share long borders but have starkly different economic needs and vaccination rates.

Southern European states like Spain and Greece, which rely on tourism, are pushing for the bloc to adopt the documents. German and French officials have expressed reservations, at least for now. Their countries have lower vaccination rates, meaning that travel restrictions would put their residents at a relative disadvantage.

When Britain’s foreign secretary speculated recently that proof of vaccination might be required for pubs and stores, a lawmaker in his own party, Mark Harper, retorted, “I don’t think you want to require people to have to have a particular medical procedure before they can go about their day-to-day life.”

California’s vaccine struggle, over whether to tighten school requirements after measles and whooping cough outbreaks highlighted the state’s low immunization rates, offers a worrying preview.

one-third of Americans, in one poll, predominantly Republicans — are merely hesitant. The push to achieve herd immunity will depend on that third.

One problem: There is no agreement on the primary purpose of a vaccine passport program.

Governments typically talk about them as a way to open up economies. Individuals, as a way to re-enter normal life. Public health experts, as a way to reduce transmissions.

Those goals align, but imperfectly. At some point, the authorities have to prioritize.

Dr. Errett ticked through implementation questions, broadly unknown, that could force an answer. Would you need two doses to get the document or just one? Do Russian- or Chinese-made vaccines qualify? What are the rules for religious or medical opt-outs? Are some activities restricted to card-carriers until herd immunity, just until infections fall below a certain line — or forever?

“We need to be cognizant of the costs and benefits,” she said, and not just to adjust as we go, but for “the precedent we’re setting.”

“We pandemic people,” she said, “have been saying it since the beginning: We don’t expect this to be the last pandemic that we see.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels.

View Source

Some Nations Could Wait Years for Covid Shots. That’s Bad for Everyone.

NAIROBI, Kenya — The nurse lay in bed this month, coughing, wheezing and dizzy with fever.

It was three months after rich countries began vaccinating health workers, but Kenyans like the nurse, Stella Githaiga, had been left behind: Employed in the country’s largest public hospital, she caught the coronavirus on an outreach trip to remote communities in February, she believes, sidelining her even as Kenya struggles with a vicious third surge of infections.

Ms. Githaiga and her colleagues are victims of one of the most galling inequities in a pandemic that has exposed so many: Across the global south, health workers are being sickened and killed by a virus from which doctors and nurses in many rich countries are now largely protected.

That is just the most visible cost of a rich-poor divide that has deepened in the second year of the pandemic. Of the vaccine doses given globally, roughly three-quarters have gone to only 10 countries. At least 30 countries have not yet injected a single person.

Scientists have long warned that such unfair treatment could not only haunt poorer countries, but also rich ones, if the continued spread of the virus allows it to mutate in ways that undermine vaccines. But the greatest human costs will almost surely be borne by less wealthy nations.

the vaccine doses given globally.

“I don’t think we have the capacity, as a country and even as Africa, to treat our own,” said Hazel Miseda Mumbo, vice chancellor of the Great Lakes University of Kisumu in Kenya, who has studied the country’s health system. “While these countries in the West are still scrambling for vaccines, Africa will have to wait. It may be a sad situation.”

In a worrisome sign of how uneven distribution is, even Kenya, one of the continent’s wealthier countries, is faring badly.

dangerous variants circling the world. President Biden has promised to have vaccines for all adults in the United States by the end of May. Israel has vaccinated 60 percent of its people, and Britain has inoculated 41 percent.

Like many developing countries, Kenya is relying on the global mechanism for procuring and distributing vaccines known as Covax. The program was built on the idea that many countries, including richer ones, would use it to purchase shots as a way of spreading their bets across vaccine makers. Instead, dozens of wealthy nations bought doses straight from pharmaceutical companies, elbowing the international effort out of the way and delaying shipments to the developing world.

flight suspensions and school shutdowns that eventually forced children to repeat the school year — kept the virus from overwhelming the country last year, as did its relatively young population.

But control measures like lockdowns, available to rich and poor countries alike, are no longer the best defense against the coronavirus. The most valuable currency is now vaccines, opening a yawning gap between those that can afford them, and those that cannot.

The pandemic has worsened in Africa since a variant first seen in South Africa, shown to be able to reinfect people, began driving up cases in southern parts of the continent.

“Before that, it was believed that Africa had escaped this pandemic,” said Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in South Africa. “Unfortunately, it didn’t.”

With cases soaring in Kenya, vaccine delays will cost more lives. The number of reported Covid-19 cases — more than 120,000 infections that have led to around 2,000 deaths — is thought to be an undercount.

Kenya had also ignored other countries’ worries about being used as “guinea pigs” and participated in vaccine trials, raising expectations for earlier shipments.

“The clinical trials resulted in vaccines,” said Dr. David Ngira, a postdoctoral researcher in global health law at Cardiff University, who has been tracking vaccine rollouts in Africa. “And on this premise, the Kenyan participants, as well as the surrounding communities and country at large, should have been given some priority in vaccine access.”

But that has not happened. Even Kenya’s low expectations have been scaled back: A promised 4.1 million doses from Covax by May has been cut to 3.6 million doses. The country has ordered a total of 24 million doses.

Health officials say they are grateful, but even Covax shots come with a hitch. Vaccines covering the first 20 percent of Kenya’s population were free, but only on the grounds that the government pay for enough doses to cover another 10 percent of its people.

global economy could suffer losses exceeding $9 trillion, nearly half of which would fall on rich countries like Britain, Canada and the United States.

heart specialist in Zimbabwe — a mentor to younger doctors and a pillar of the country’s health system — was killed by Covid-19. That same month, a senior doctor in northern Nigeria died from the virus, confined to an isolation center.

Kenya’s health system was already hobbled last year by mistreatment of doctors and nurses. Many health workers, unpaid for months in some cases and often given inadequate protective equipment, walked off the job, forcing some hospitals to go months without nurses. One had to close its Covid-19 isolation unit and send patients home. In December, a 28-year-old doctor died from Covid-19 after having worked without a salary for months.

“It’s a moral emergency to protect health workers worldwide,” Gavin Yamey, associate director for policy at the Duke Global Health Institute, said. “Sickness and death of health workers in systems that are already weak could exacerbate those problems even further.”

For Nyachira Muthiga, a public hospital doctor who worked on a Covid-19 ward in Nairobi last year, the arrival of Kenya’s first vaccines brought a sense of relief. But the crushing experiences of the last year have made her wary.

Before contracting the illness herself, she lost many patients. Substandard protective equipment left her vulnerable, she said. And reports of corruption that cheated hospitals of much-needed money, she said, broke something in her.

Though she got the vaccine last week, she worries that those same endemic problems in the health system — combined with vaccine hoarding by rich nations — could put shots out of the reach of ordinary Kenyans for much longer.

“I am still hopeful,” she said, “that the health of our citizens will be a high priority at some point.”

Abdi Latif Dahir reported from Nairobi and Benjamin Mueller from London.

View Source

Underage Marriage Set to Rise as Covid-19 Crushes Dreams

RAPTI SONARI, Nepal — Sapana dreamed of becoming a government official. Each night, in her hut along a bumpy dirt road, the 17-year-old lit a single solar-powered bulb dangling from the ceiling and hit the books, plotting out a future much different than her mother’s.

But as the coronavirus crept across Nepal, closing the schools, Sapana lost focus. Stuck in her village with little to do, she struck up a friendship with an out-of-work laborer.

They fell in love. Soon they married. Now, Sapana has given up her professional dreams, with no plans to return to school.

“Things might have been different if I hadn’t discontinued my studies,” Sapana said recently, as she sat breastfeeding her 2-month-old son on the floor of her simple home. Her family name was withheld to protect her privacy.

Child marriage is increasing at alarming levels in many places, the United Nations says, and the coronavirus pandemic is reversing years of hard-earned progress toward keeping young women in school.

In a report released on Monday, the United Nations Children’s Fund predicted that an additional 10 million girls this decade will be at risk of child marriage, defined as a union before the age of 18. Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said that “Covid-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse.”

forced by parents or other authority figures into marriage with older men. But child advocates also worry about the young women who, because of the pandemic’s impact, are drifting away from school and see early marriage as their only option, abandoning ambitions for an education and a better life.

Many child marriages are never registered. UNICEF estimates that 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood. Child advocates say they are seeing an upsurge in places where it has long been a problem, such as India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi, where teen pregnancies in some areas have tripled.

In Nepal, where the legal age for marriage is 20, the situation seems especially acute. Interlocking problems particular to the country and this moment make it difficult for many young women to avoid early marriage.

One of Asia’s poorest nations, Nepal relies on remittances and tourism. The pandemic has devastated both. Usually, at this time of year, foreign tourists head for the mountains to begin expensive treks into the Annapurna Range and up the slopes of Mount Everest. This year, the money that flows from them into so many layers of Nepal’s economy has all but dried up.

In 2019, Nepal earned $8.25 billion from foreign remittances. But with most of the world’s economies hurting, that remittance stream has also dwindled. Legions of young Nepali men, many of them single, have recently returned home.

Many others have lost their jobs in Nepal’s cities. A great number of young men now roam around their mountainside villages, bored and broke. That was how Sapana met her husband, Hardas.

Hardas, who said he was around 20, used to work as a traveling mason, often in cities such as Kathmandu and Nepalgunj. But after he was laid off in April, at the beginning of the pandemic, he came back to his native Rapti Sonari, a small town of about 10,000 people, 300 miles west of Kathmandu.

The houses are spread out in a maze of dirt roads beneath the hills. Most are made from mud and stone. Sapana’s father, Ram Dayal, bought an auto rickshaw right before the lockdown hit. Now he has monthly payments of 30,000 rupees, around $250, and almost no customers.

Mr. Dayal was not happy that his daughter married so young, but he conceded that her leaving the house helped ease his financial burden. He has five other mouths to feed.

“She would have had a better life if she completed 10th grade,” Mr. Dayal said.

Ghumni, his wife and Sapana’s mother, agreed. She, too, was a child bride and ended up with four children and zero education.

Activists who fight child marriage say they are working in the most difficult conditions they have ever faced, even as the problem worsens. Nepal has imposed harsh restrictions on vehicular movement. When infections surged, activists were confined indoors like everybody else. Several said that the number of child marriages in their areas had doubled or nearly doubled during the pandemic.

“We are at back to square one,” said Hira Khatri, an anti-child-marriage activist in the district that includes Rapti Sonari.

Two years ago, Ms. Khatri said, she intervened and stopped seven child marriages in her village. It did not make her popular. Many families in Nepal are eager to marry off their young daughters. Some villagers threatened to kill her, Ms. Khatri said, and they threw used condoms outside her house to humiliate her.

The police have not been much help. The officers based in villages have been much more focused on enforcing quarantine rules and keeping an eye on virus cases. Some police officials expressed a reluctance to get involved.

“These are serious criminal charges,” said Om Bahadur Rana, a police official in Nepalgunj. “If we file a case because of a child marriage, it could hurt the young people’s chance of ever getting a government job.”

Across central Nepal, many families shared stories of watching their daughters disappear into early marriages.

Mayawati, 17, who also lives in Rapti Sonari, dreamed of studying agriculture. But her family’s struggles during the pandemic made her feel guilty about being a burden to her parents. She dropped out of school, then married a man who worked as a menial laborer. Her dreams, too, have quietly slipped away.

“We have no money,” said Mayawati, whose last name was also withheld. “How was I supposed to continue my studies?”

Mayawati said that most of her friends who had married during the lockdown were now pregnant.

Some people in Nepal feel strongly about what they see as the benefits of child marriage. Several elders in the Madhesi community, based on the southern plains near the border of India, said they had falsified their daughters’ birth certificates to avoid getting in trouble.

“Marrying daughters in their young age has made me happier. It’s our practice,” said Mina Kondu, who said she recently doctored her 16-year-old daughter’s birth certificate, making her appear to be 19, which was still below the legal age but close enough, the family believed.

“The police cannot stop us,” she said.

Ms. Kondu, who lives in a village about three hours’ drive from Sapana’s, said that if the families didn’t arrange for their daughters to marry young, the daughters would do it anyway, without permission, and dishonor the family.

Sapana’s family has accepted her recent marriage. In the span of a couple months, Sapana has shifted from studying for school to taking care of her baby and her new husband.

She collects grass to feed the family’s four buffaloes.

She washes clothes.

She cooks rice and flat bread.

“I couldn’t complete my studies, that’s true,” she said. “My son will do that.”

And then she added, after a moment, “Hopefully, he will marry when he’s fully grown.”

Bhadra Sharma reported from Rapti Sonari, Nepal, and Jeffrey Gettleman from New Delhi.

View Source