Oct 26, 2020 - Health

Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for COVID-19 recovery

A health worker does a COVID-19 test in India

A health worker performs a COVID-19 test in New Delhi. Photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Rockefeller Foundation announced on Monday that it will allocate $1 billion over the next three years to address the pandemic and its aftermath.

Why it matters: The mishandled pandemic and the effects of climate change threaten to reverse global progress and push more than 100 million people into poverty around the world. Governments and big NGOs need to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery reaches everyone who needs it.

By the numbers: The Rockefeller Foundation's $1 billion commitment is the largest in its 107-year history, and will primarily focus on expanding access to COVID-19 tests and vaccines, as well as investing in distributed green power sources for the more than 800 million people stuck in energy poverty.

  • The Foundation will leverage both its own endowment and the proceeds from its first-ever bond offering for charitable purposes, and aims to catalyze billions more in private investments.

What they're saying: "This crisis has unwound two to two-and-a-half decades of progress against basic human development goals," says Rajiv Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation. "You can imagine a future characterized by extreme inequity on a global scale, or you can imagine a future where sometimes steps up with a Marshall Plan for building back post-crisis."

How it works: Shah argues that increasing access to energy is an under-appreciated part of any kind of recovery, especially since the pandemic has led to more than 100 million having their electricity cut because of unpaid bills.

  • "If you don't have reliable industrial power, you can't run businesses," says Shah, who led the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under President Obama. "If you can't run businesses, you don't create jobs."

Background: The Rockefeller Foundation has long been involved in public health, including funding the work that led to the yellow fever vaccine.

  • During his time at USAID, Shah was a key figure in the global response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The catch: As big as a billion dollars is for a charity, it's little more than 0.006% of the $16 trillion that the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cost the U.S. alone.

The bottom line: The pandemic will be an inflection point for the future of the world, and it's vital to begin preparing for that future now.

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