The United Nations has urged strengthening of international transit systems to build resilience to future pandemics in landlocked developing countries.
Malawi is one of Africa’s 16 landlocked developing states.With no access to the sea, they heavily rely on their neighbours—known as transit countries—to access international trade.
Enhancing efficiency in transit systems and in operations at international borders are needed for the world’s landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) to build back better and be resilient to future pandemics and emergencies, shows a new UN report. Impact of Covid-19 and Responses in Landlocked Developing Countries, the report released in collaboration with the International Think Tank for LLDCs, shows how countries lack of territorial access to the sea and global markets expose them in unique ways to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When the world locked down and borders closed throughout the globe, the LLDCs found themselves in a desperate situation with limited access to global markets, food and medical supplies and, therefore, were left behind in their efforts to fight the pandemic,” said Courtenay Rattray, the UN High-Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UNOHRLLS).
This cannot be allowed to happen again, he stated.
“This group of countries is in dire need of more efficient transit systems to ensure secure and uninterrupted flows of goods and services when needed most. They must be supported to respond and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The report calls for open cross-border transport networks for goods and services, expedited passage of medical supplies and coordinated safety measures at border crossings so the LLDCs can better face future crises.
Dulguun Damdin-Od, director of operations and research coordinator of the International Think Tank for LLDCs, added: “Borders are the LLDCs’ only gateway to the rest of the world and it must be ensured that those gates can be opened in times of crisis.
“LLDCs cannot be excluded in our global vision for a better, more sustainable future.”
LLDCs suffer debilitating hurdles in their efforts to import and export goods.
The pandemic made this problem stark with LLDCs struggling to access tools necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but also the near-impossible challenge of importing vaccines.
By June 2021, the UNOHRLLs reports, one percent of global Covid-19 vaccine doses had been distributed in LLDCs.
This group of countries plays home to seven percent of the world’s population.
Only by prioritising vaccination would the world accelerate the LLDCs’ economic recovery and rebuild what was torn down by the pandemic, the report shows.
The global shutdown caused a spike in prices of food and medical supplies which was multiplied in the LLDCs, as they had no direct access to commodity sources.