Public-health experts predict that, as an indirect consequence of the Covid pandemic, twice as many people around the world could be at risk of dying from malaria. There could be 400,000 extra deaths from TB in the next few years, and half a million extra deaths from HIV. Across much of the world, in short, the response to the coronavirus has ushered in a shadow pandemic. The coronavirus’s real death toll, then, has to be calculated not just in deaths from Covid, but also in deaths that would otherwise have been prevented, from malaria, TB, HIV, diabetes and more.
This shadow pandemic isn’t simply a story about disease – it’s about poverty, hunger, truncated education and stunted lives. A suggestive comparison can be made with the climate crisis. In the affluent world, some people think of climate breakdown as a matter of how long the air conditioning stays on, but for many in the developing world, it’s already a matter of floods, droughts and famine.
These disparities between the global north and south are likely to be a feature of crises to come. The tale of two pandemics, then, is a tale of two international orders. The post-pandemic challenge, in turn, is to take seriously the rhetoric of an “international community”, and integrate the two into one.