IDRC-supported research is helping decision-makers understand and address the structural cracks in our global systems that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed and deepened and identifying methods to improve prevention, response and future preparedness.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased inequalities worldwide and threatened to erase decades of development progress in areas such as health, gender equality, food systems, economic sustainability and education. These and other effects will persist and resurface during future pandemics unless they are addressed through effective policies and responses informed by robust and localized evidence.
We are committed to strengthening the world’s resilience to global health threats and other crises with policies that cut through systemic inequalities and are relevant to local contexts and people’s everyday lives.
Strong health systems
While COVID-19 has strained health systems around the world, countries in the Global South have fewer policies and resources to prepare for, detect and manage global health threats. IDRC is committed to addressing gaps in epidemic preparedness through ongoing support for health research and initiatives such as Artificial Intelligence for Global Health. The use of AI is transforming health system planning and how health services are delivered across low- and middle-income countries today. This initiative will catalyze and scale research, mobilize knowledge and strengthen capacity in the Global South to promote the responsible use of AI in health systems.
Digital solutions are helping countries recover from COVID-19 and move toward more equitable health systems. IDRC-funded researchers are exploring the potential and feasibility of using innovative digital health solutions to address gender inequalities and related gaps in services at each stage of the healthcare process, while also building more equitable, inclusive health systems that can withstand future pandemics and health emergencies.
Epidemics commonly emerge from situations where human, animal and environmental interactions create the conditions for a virus to jump from animals to humans. Over the past two decades, epidemic threats are emerging with greater frequency and scale of impact, threatening to disrupt our collective health and roll back decades of global development progress.
IDRC is investing CAD20 million to fund One Health research to improve our understanding of emerging epidemic threats and to demonstrate that research-informed solutions can protect the health and livelihoods of vulnerable populations, strengthen local food systems and promote environmental sustainability. Multidisciplinary research is already underway in West Africa and in the Congo and Amazon basins.
As the world saw with COVID-19, if zoonotic diseases are not effectively controlled, they can spread beyond their endemic areas and cause global pandemics. In 2022, we saw exactly this with the monkeypox (mpox) virus, a zoonotic disease endemic to several parts of Central and West Africa that quickly spread around the globe. As part of Canada’s response to the mpox outbreak, IDRC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) are funding two research projects involving researchers from Canada, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Recovery for all
In 2020 and 2021, IDRC invested nearly CAD55 million in rapid-response COVID-19 programming in more than 65 countries. These research initiatives continue to generate findings and recommendations to improve social support and economic, food, education and health systems during pandemic recovery and in future responses to crises.
These examples are some of the results and insights emerging from this research:
- Outcomes from the COVID-19 Responses for Equity initiative include, for example, measures proposed legislative reforms to address food insecurity in rural Chile, a network and declaration to advance social protection in the Arab region and new awareness among Central American policymakers of the challenges migrants experienced when returning to their countries of origin during the pandemic.
- A study by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) uncovered how the COVID-19 pandemic affected informal workers and the measures needed to ensure that no one is left behind.
- Research on COVID-19 and education in Africa documented serious, unexpected social outcomes from school closures, such as an increase in pregnancy among schoolgirls, and offered recommendations to improve the response to future disruptions in education.
This policy-relevant research positions women, girls and other marginalized populations at the centre of solutions that are innovative, sustainable and inclusive.
Launched on March 8, 2022, the Women RISE initiative targets transformative, action-oriented research on the intersection of women’s health and their paid or unpaid work. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and IDRC are investing in this CAD24-million initiative to inform solutions that improve gender equality and health equity during the COVID-19 recovery and in future health emergencies.
IDRC continues to work collaboratively with partners to ensure that pandemic prevention, preparedness and response are strengthened on a truly global scale. IDRC-supported research into the impact of COVID-19 on fragile contexts aligns with the core objectives of our Strategy 2030 to invest in high-quality research and innovation in developing countries, share knowledge for greater uptake and use and mobilize alliances for impact.